- American diplomats being evacuated by helicopter
- Ashraf Ghani flees Kabul for Tajikistan
Afghan president flees the country as Taliban move on Kabul
Ghani’s departure comes amid negotiations for a peaceful transfer of power after Taliban fighters encircled Kabul after capturing 26 of the country’s 34 provincial capitals in less than two weeks.
“The former Afghan president has left the nation,” Abdullah, the head of the High Council for National Reconciliation, said in a video on his Facebook page.
Meanwhile, a Taliban official told Reuters they were checking reports about Ghani’s departure from the country.
The Taliban urged government officials to stay, but officials said Ghani had left the country.
On Sunday, Taliban troops surrounded Afghanistan’s seat of power, promising it had instructed its fighters to refrain from violence and offer safe passage to anyone wishing to leave Kabul.
American diplomats were evacuated from their embassy by chopper after the taliban swept across Afghanistan in days with little resistance from local forces trained and equipped by the United States and others for billions of dollars.
A representative of the Taliban said the group was checking on Ghani’s whereabouts. Some local social media users branded him a “coward” for leaving them in chaos.
Taliban fighers reached Kabul “from all sides”, the senior Interior Ministry official told Reuters and there were some reports of sporadic gunfire around the city.
But there was no significant fighting and the group said it was waiting for the Western-backed government to surrender peacefully.
“Taliban fighters are to be on standby on all entrances of Kabul until a peaceful and satisfactory transfer of power is agreed,” said spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.
Taliban sought to project a more moderate face, promising to respect women’s rights and protect both foreigners and Afghans.
Another spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, said the Taliban would protect the rights of women, as well as freedoms for media workers and diplomats.
“We assure the people, particularly in the city of Kabul, that their properties, their lives are safe,” he told the BBC, saying a transfer of power was expected in days.
The government’s acting interior minister, Abdul Sattar Mirzakawal, said power would be handed over to a transitional administration.
There won’t be an attack on the city, it is agreed that there will be a peaceful handover,” he tweeted.
A tweet from the Afghan presidential palace account said firing had been heard at a number of points around Kabul but that security forces, in coordination with international partners, had control of the city.
Many of Kabul’s streets were choked by cars and people either trying to rush home or reach the airport, residents said.
‘AMERICAN PRESENCE UNACCEPTABLE’
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in Washington that the embassy was being moved to the airport and has a list of people to get out of harm’s way.
A NATO official said the alliance was helping to secure the airport and that a political solution was “now more urgent than ever”.
Russia said it saw no need to evacuate its embassy for the time being.
CRITICISM OF BIDEN
U.S President Joe Biden has faced rising domestic criticism after sticking to a plan, initiated by his Republican predecessor Donald Trump, to end the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan by Aug. 31.
“An endless American presence in the middle of another country’s civil conflict was not acceptable to me,” Biden said on Saturday.