PORTLAND, Ore. (Portland Tribune) — Almost six years ago, then-Lake Oswego School District Superintendent Heather Beck announced a surprising discovery she’d made about a slice of local history.

It turned out that Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, who’d been inaugurated as president of Afghanistan about a year before Beck’s announcement, was a former student in the district. He’d been an exchange student at Lake Oswego High School during the 1966-67 school year and served on the student council. His photo appeared several times in the LOHS yearbook under another name he went by, Ashraf Ahmad.

“Not only are we the top school district in the nation, we produce world leaders,” Beck said at the time.

Ghani remains Afghanistan’s president as of this week, but in name only. Over the weekend, as the Taliban entered the capital city of Kabul and the fall of Ghani’s administration appeared imminent, he fled the country.

The Portland Tribune is a media partner with KOIN 6 News

The Taliban’s takeover of the country came as United States military forces departed, marking the end of a war that began nearly 20 years ago in September 2001. In the immediate aftermath of Ghani’s departure, media outlets reported that he released a statement on his Facebook page (the page is no longer active on Facebook’s site).

“In order to avoid the bleeding flood, I thought it best to get out. Taliban have won the judgement of sword and guns and now they are responsible for protecting the countrymen’s honor, wealth and self esteem,” Ghani was reported to have said in the statement.

He did not specify where he’d gone after leaving Afghanistan.

Ghani was born in 1949 in Afghanistan’s Logar Province. He would later graduate from the American University in Beirut, Lebanon, and receive master’s and doctoral degrees at Columbia University. After working for the World Bank, he returned to Afghanistan following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and served as special adviser to Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations special envoy to Afghanistan.

Ashraf Ghani
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani speaks during a media availability after his meeting with President Joe Biden in Washington, Friday, June 25, 2021. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

He later rose to the position of finance minister and then served as chancellor of Kabul University. He came in fourth place for the presidency in 2009. In 2010, he took on the role of chairman of the Transition Coordination Commission, which was responsible for the transition of power from International Security Assistance Forces and NATO to Afghan National Security Forces.

When Ghani was elected in 2014 to replace then-President Hamid Karzai, it was referred to by CNN as the country’s “first peaceful democratic transition of power.”

“Our message is a message of peace,” Ghani said in his inaugural address. “And this message of peace does not mean we are weak.”

In the speech, he called on “Afghan government enemies” like the Taliban to prepare for negotiations.