President Ashraf Ghani is said to have left the war-torn country as the Taliban nearly completed their Kabul takeover on Sunday, even as they ordered their troops to remain outside the Afghan capital ahead of peace talks. Tolo, an Afghan news service, reported that Ghani had left, citing two sources with knowledge, but did not state where he was going. Apparently, President Ghani left after resigning.
Abdullah Abdullah, head of the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR), claims Ghani has left the country and refers to him as ‘the former president’. Moreover, he reportedly asked Afghan forces to cooperate in ensuring security and urged the Taliban to allow some time for talks before entering Kabul. The United States is evacuating its embassy in Kabul, said Secretary of State Antony Blinken, while stating that the ‘Afghan mission’ has been successful. As the Taliban reasserted its grip on Afghanistan twenty years after the US ousted it, television images showed private helicopters ferrying passengers from the US embassy.
US embassy employees will be completely withdrawn within three days, CNN reported earlier, citing embassy insiders. This will leave only a small cadre to operate the airport. Taliban fighters reached the outskirts of Kabul earlier on Sunday after a three-week offensive during which the group seized large portions of the country with little resistance. According to the Associated Press, Taliban forces now control all of Afghanistan’s border crossings.
The Islamic Emirate instructs its forces to stand at the gates of Kabul, not try to enter the city, the Taliban said in a statement on Sunday, using the group’s full name. Negotiations are underway to ensure that the transition process is completed safely and securely, without endangering lives, property or honor of anyone. It was unclear how or where the conversations would take place. A transfer of power is set to take place in Kabul after Taliban negotiators visit the presidential palace. Acting Afghan defense minister Bismillah Mohammadi said Ghani granted Ghani authority over a delegation that will head to Doha for talks on Monday.
The militant group has sought to assure the country and the world that it will act responsibly as it prepares to regain power, after a US-trained army collapsed after President Biden ordered American troops to leave by August 31. On Sunday, Ghani’s office said on social media that national forces have Kabul ‘under control’ and that the people need not worry. However, some Afghan officials suggested it was just a matter of time before the Taliban took over. Afghanistan’s acting interior minister, Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal, said in a video message posted on the ministry’s Facebook page that security in Kabul was his responsibility until the transfer of power.
Earlier this week, Biden increased deployments of US troops to ensure a ‘safe and orderly drawdown’. According to a defense official, the order adds about 1,000 troops to the 3,000 Marines and soldiers already at the airport and in the embassy. Defending his decision to withdraw the troops from Afghanistan after 20 years – America’s longest war — Biden said, ‘I served as president for four years, two Republicans and two Democrats. I won’t pass this war on to a fifth’.
Thousands of Afghans fled to Kabul in the face of the Taliban advance as the crisis threatened to spill outside Afghanistan’s borders and send waves of refugees as far as Europe. A large number of people also flocked to Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport to catch a flight out.