Afghan president appeals for help as Taliban close in on capital

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is calling on the international community to aid in the country’s fight against the Taliban, which have closed in on Kabul as fears grow that the capital could soon be overrun by the insurgent group.

The U.S.-backed leader said in a televised address Saturday, his first public appearance in days as the Taliban have made significant territorial gains, that he has spoken with world leaders and local political figures, though he did not provide specific details on the conversations, according to Bloomberg

Ghani said he wished to “stop the civil war imposed on Afghans and prevent more innocent deaths and the loss of 20 years of achievements” since U.S. troops first arrived in Afghanistan to topple the Taliban in 2001. 

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“We have started consultations, inside the government with elders and political leaders, representatives of different levels of the community as well as our international allies,” he said, according to The Associated Press

“The consultations are happening at great speed and the results will soon be shared with you dear countrymen,” added the president, who is facing growing pressure to step down amid the crisis. 

The address came as the Taliban captured Afghanistan’s Logar province Saturday, with Afghan lawmaker Hoda Ahmadi saying that the group has now reached the Char Asyab district, located just seven miles south of Kabul, according to the AP. 

Ghani is facing diminishing support at home, with thousands of his soldiers surrendering en masse, a move former Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal said indicates the Afghan troops believe the president is not “worth fighting for.” 

The president’s plea to the international community comes as the U.S. and others such as Canada and the United Kingdom are removing large numbers of their diplomats from Afghanistan amid the worsening security situation.

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFixing Congress requires fixing how it legislates McConnell: GOP should focus on future, not 'rehash' 2020 Hoyer: Democrats 'committed' to Oct. 31 timeline for Biden's agenda MORE (R-Ky.) on Friday urged the Biden administration to conduct airstrikes against the Taliban to support local security forces and prevent the insurgent group from taking control of Kabul, warning that failing to act would allow the security threat to the U.S. to "assuredly grow" and lead to a "catastrophic" humanitarian cost within Afghanistan.

The State Department confirmed to The Hill on Friday that the U.S. Embassy in Kabul had ordered staff to start destroying sensitive material, including “embassy or agency logos, American flags, or items which could be misused in propaganda efforts.”

The U.S. has significantly reduced its military presence there amid President BidenJoe BidenWhite House: Window for finalizing sweeping budget package 'closing' Jayapal says tuition-free community college 'probably won't' be in spending plan Jan. 6 panel votes to hold Bannon in contempt MORE’s goal to remove all troops from the country by the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, though the Defense Department this week said it would temporarily be sending an additional 3,000 U.S. troops to assist in the large departure of U.S. diplomats.