- Taliban infiltrate Kabul from all sides, according to an officer from the interior ministry.
- Diplomats from the United States were evacuated by helicopter.
- According to the president’s office, shots were fired, but the situation was under control.
- Jalalabad, a city in eastern Afghanistan, surrenders without a struggle.
KABUL, Aug 15 (Reuters) – Taliban insurgents stormed Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, on Sunday, according to an interior ministry official, as the US embassy in Kabul was evacuated by helicopter.
The Taliban were coming in “from all sides,” the senior officer told Reuters, although he didn’t elaborate.
The fire was heard at a number of locations across Kabul, according to a tweet from the Afghan Presidential palace account, but security forces, working with international partners, held control of the city.
The diplomats were being driven to the airport from the embassy in the fortified Wazir Akbar Khan district, according to US sources. After the Taliban’s lightning advances brought the Islamist organisation to Kabul in a matter of days, more American forces were ordered to assist in the evacuations.
Kabul might hold out for at least three months, according to a US intelligence estimate released just last week.
A US official stated that “core” US team members were working from the Kabul airport, while a NATO official indicated that several EU staff had relocated to a safer, secret location in the capital.
According to Reuters, a Taliban official stated that the group did not want any casualties when it took control, but that no truce had been established.
President Ashraf Ghani, who announced on Saturday that he was in urgent meetings with local leaders and foreign partners on the situation, had no immediate comment on the situation.
The insurgents had already conquered the eastern city of Jalalabad without a struggle on Sunday, giving them control of one of Afghanistan’s important routes. They also grabbed control of the adjoining Torkham border station with Pakistan, leaving Kabul airport as the last remaining government-controlled exit point from Afghanistan.
Jalalabad’s surrender came after the Taliban seized the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif late Saturday, with little resistance.
“There are no clashes in Jalalabad right now since the governor has surrendered to the Taliban,” an Afghan official in Jalalabad told Reuters. “The only option to preserve civilian lives was to allow the Taliban access.”
People cheered and shouted Allahu Akbar – God is greatest – as a convoy of pick-up trucks approached the city with warriors waving machine guns and the white Taliban flag, according to a video released by the Taliban.
The Taliban campaign increased when US-led forces withdrew the majority of their remaining troops in the last month, as the Afghan military’s defences appeared to be crumbling.
President Joe Biden authorised the deployment of 5,000 US troops on Saturday to assist with the evacuation of people and to ensure a “orderly and safe” military drawdown. This included 1,000 newly approved troops from the 82nd Airborne Division, according to a US defence official.
According to provincial officials, Taliban insurgents reached Mazar-i-Sharif largely unopposed as security forces fled up the route to Uzbekistan, roughly 80 kilometres (50 miles) to the north. Unverified social media footage shows Afghan army trucks and uniformed troops surrounding the iron bridge connecting the Afghan village of Hairatan and Uzbekistan.
Atta Mohammad Noor and Abdul Rashid Dostum, two powerful militia leaders who backed the government, also escaped. Due to a “plot,” Noor said on social media that the Taliban had been given control of Balkh province, which includes Mazar-i-Sharif. find out more
VERY WELL RECEIVED
The Taliban stated in a statement late Saturday that its swift advances demonstrated that it was widely supported by Afghans, and that both Afghans and foreigners will be safe.
The Taliban’s Islamic Emirate, as it is known, “will, as always, safeguard their lives, property, and honour, and establish a calm and secure environment for its loving population,” it added, adding that diplomats and humanitarian workers would have no problems.
In recent days, Afghans have fled the regions for Kabul, fearing a return to extreme Islamist rule.
Early Sunday, families and refugees from Taliban-controlled districts were spotted offloading possessions from cabs outside embassy gates, while the city’s downtown was filled with people stocking up on supplies.
On Saturday night, hundreds of people slept hunched in tents or in the open in the city, beside roadsides or in car parks, according to a resident. He said, “You can feel the terror on their faces.”
In discussions in Qatar, Biden said his government informed Taliban officials that any action that puts US people in jeopardy “would be met with a rapid and powerful US military reaction.”
As the Taliban have conquered city after city considerably more swiftly than expected, he has faced increasing domestic criticism. The president has kept to a plan put up by his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, to bring the US military mission in Afghanistan to a close by August 31.
Biden stated that it is up to the Afghan soldiers to maintain control of their own territory. “It was not acceptable to me to have an endless American presence in the heart of another country’s civil war,” Biden said on Saturday.
Qatar, which has hosted so far fruitless peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban, claimed it has asked the rebels to put down their weapons. Ghani has shown no signs of agreeing to the Taliban’s demand that he retire as a condition of any ceasefire.