KABUL -- The governor of the northern Afghan province of Kunduz -- who was outside the country when the provincial capital fell to Taliban fighters earlier this week -- has returned to Kabul and is dismissing reports that he had fled for Europe.
Mohammad Omer Safi told RFE/RL in Kabul on September 30 that he would defend Afghanistan until "the last drop of blood" was spilled from his body.
[Editor's note: Mohammad Omer Safi left his position as governor of Kunduz under unclear circumstances shortly after he was interviewed for this article. His former deputy, Hamdullah Danishi, was announced as acting governor in a statement issued by the presidential office on September 30.]
Reports from local Afghan media noted that Safi had flown by helicopter from Kunduz to Tajikistan shortly before the Taliban launched a three-pronged attack on the low-lying areas of Kunduz city on September 28.
Some Afghan media reported that Safi subsequently fled to Europe.
Those reports prompted widespread conspiracy claims on social media, and criticism by some Afghan parliamentary deputies who alleged that Safi took bribe payments in exchange for handing Kunduz over to the Taliban.
Safi responded to those critics on September 30, telling RFE/RL that "unfortunately, Afghan people and politicians don't follow reality. And they just say irresponsible things in the media that could be very dangerous. The enemy can benefit from this."
Without specifying his destination, Safi said his trip abroad had been approved in advance by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and that he had left the provincial capital in the charge of his deputy governor and the police brigade commander there.
He blamed the fall of Kunduz on "regional intelligence officials," saying it was their fault that Afghan security forces in some parts of the city were not prepared for the Taliban's sudden assault.
Safi also said that "the government and all security ministries were involved deeply in security tasks elsewhere in the country, so they didn't have enough time to take some precise measures regarding the defense of Kunduz."
WATCH: Afghans Flee Kunduz As Battle Rages
He said that "one of the mistakes that was not taken into consideration" was the number of security forces needed to defend the city against a concentrated assault by up to 2,000 Taliban fighters.
He said people from outside of Kunduz "think that 3,000 police are enough for a province with six administrative districts."
He also admitted that some Afghan security forces in the city "did not have strong defense posts" and that soldiers posted with nothing but tents were "vulnerable…and were forced to retreat."
As Afghan and NATO troops struggled to battle Taliban fighters outside of the provincial capital, and as the Taliban seized a strategic military base called Bala Hissar on the north side of the city, Safi vowed that he would return to the province soon.
He said Afghan forces were massing on four sides of the provincial capital and that he expected the situation "to change within 48 hours."
He said that, "Inshallah, Kunduz will be cleared" of Taliban fighters.