Afghanistan’s embattled President Ashraf Ghani fled the country on Sunday as the Taliban moved further into Kabul, it’s confirmed.
According to a Reuters report, Ghani left for Tajikistan.
His countrymen and foreigners alike raced for the exit, signalling the end of a 20-year experiment aimed at remaking Afghanistan. Ghani flew out of the country, two officials told The Associated Press.
Abdullah Abdullah, the head of the Afghan National Reconciliation Council, later confirmed Ghani had left. Civilians fearing that the Taliban could reimpose the kind of brutal rule that all but eliminated women’s rights rushed to leave the country, lining up at cash machines to withdraw their life savings.
My message to the people of AFGHANISNAN, to the security forces and to the Taliban: https://t.co/MiFk0zaNRJ
— Dr. Abdullah Abdullah (@DrabdullahCE) August 15, 2021
Helicopters buzzed overhead to evacuate personnel from the U.S. Embassy, while smoke rose near the compound as staff destroyed important documents. Several other Western missions also prepared to pull their people out.
In a stunning rout, the Taliban seized nearly all of Afghanistan in just over a week, despite the billions of dollars spent by the U.S. and NATO over nearly two decades to build up Afghan security forces.
Just days earlier, an American military assessment estimated it would be a month before the capital would come under insurgent pressure. Instead, the Taliban swiftly defeated, co-opted or sent Afghan security forces fleeing from wide swaths of the country, even though they had some air support from the U.S. military.
“Taliban fighters are to be on standby on all entrances of Kabul until a peaceful and satisfactory transfer of power is agreed,” a statement issued by Taliban spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid, mentioned.
— Ragıp Soylu (@ragipsoylu) August 15, 2021
As per reports, US Diplomats have been evacuated from Afghanistan in several helicopters early on Sunday morning.
“Power would be handed over to a transitional administration,” the government’s acting interior minister, Abdul Sattar Mirzakawal, said in a tweet, on the Tolo news channel.
The head of Taliban’s political bureau, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, has reached Kabul, and is in talks with Afghanistan Presidential Palace. According to reports, Ashraf Ghani will resign as the President in a few hours and Abdul Baradar will take over as the new President for Taliban.
A tweet from the Afghan presidential palace account said that 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.
Earlier, the Taliban seized Jalalabad, the last major city beside Kabul, coming closer to the complete military takeover of Afghanistan, cutting off the capital to the east, as helicopters began landing at the US Embassy in Kabul, on Sunday.
The collapse of Jalalabad, near a major border crossing with Pakistan, leaves Afghanistan’s central government in control of just Kabul and seven other provincial capitals, out of the country’s 34.
In a nationwide offensive that has taken just over a week, the Taliban has defeated, co-opted or sent Afghan security forces fleeing from wide swathes of the country, even with some air support by the US military.
The rapid shuttle-run flights near the embassy began a few hours later as SUVs could be seen leaving the area around the post.
The US government did not immediately acknowledge the movements. However, wisps of smoke could be seen near the embassy’s roof as diplomats urgently destroyed sensitive documents, according to two American military officials.
President Ashraf Ghani, who spoke to the nation on Saturday for the first time since the offensive began, appears increasingly isolated as well.
Warlords he negotiated with just days earlier, have surrendered to the Taliban or fled, leaving Ghani without a military option. Ongoing negotiations in Qatar, the site of a Taliban office, also have failed to stop the advance of the insurgents.
Thousands of civilians now live in parks and open spaces in Kabul itself, fearing their future. While Kabul appeared calm Sunday, some ATMs stopped distributing cash, as hundreds gathered in front of private banks, trying to withdraw their life savings.
In his speech on Saturday, Ghani vowed not to give up the achievements of the 20 years, since the US-led invasion toppled the Taliban after the 9/11 attacks.
Many Afghans fear a return to the Taliban’s oppressive rule. The group had previously governed Afghanistan under a harsh version of Islamic law in which women were forbidden to work or attend school, and could not leave their homes without a male relative accompanying them.