Taliban enter Kabul as US Embassy staff evacuates
The Taliban entered Afghanistan’s capital city of Kabul on Sunday and have demanded the peaceful surrender of the country’s government as the U.S. pushes to evacuate its embassy staff.
The Associated Press reported foreigners and Afghans are attempting to leave the country as quickly as possible in fear of an imminent Taliban takeover.
The Taliban have quickly taken over much of Afghanistan, easily seizing numerous provincial capitals across the country. On Sunday the group entered Kabul.
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told Al Jazeera that the group is “awaiting a peaceful transfer of Kabul city.” Taliban negotiators have reportedly gone to the presidential palace.
According to Al Jazeera, Afghan Minister of the Interior Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal said on Sunday that there will be a “peaceful transfer of power” to a transitional government.
“The Afghan people should not worry. … There will be no attack on the city and there will be a peaceful transfer of power to the transitional government,” Mirzakwal said.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country early Sunday.
On Saturday, Ghani called on the international community to provide Afghanistan with aid to fight against the Taliban.
“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,” Ghani said. “The consultations are happening at great speed and the results will soon be shared with you dear countrymen.”
In the U.S., President Biden has faced increasing pressure from lawmakers to intervene in the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. However, Biden has so far maintained that he believes Afghanistan can oversee its own security issues after the withdrawal of U.S. troops after two decades in the nation.
Later on Sunday, it was reported that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has fled the country for Tajikistan. Taliban forces have reportedly since gained entry into the presidential palace.
Ghani wrote on Facebook that he had fled in order to prevent further bloodshed in Kabul.
The U.S. Embassy has instructed American citizens to shelter in place as it has been reported that the airport in Kabul is under fire. Biden has sent about 5,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan to help in the evacuation, which the president’s critics have compared to the fall of Saigon in Vietnam.
The U.S. flag at the embassy has been taken down, indicating that the final steps in the embassy’s evacuation have been completed.
Multiple airlines have announced that they will be rerouting flights to avoid Afghanistan’s airspace, cutting off an avenue of escape for many fearful Afghans and foreigners in the country.
“This is not abandonment. This is not an evacuation. This is not the wholesale withdrawal. What this is [is] a reduction in the size of our civilian footprint,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Sunday. “The embassy remains open and we plan to continue our diplomatic work in Afghanistan.”
As Al Jazeera reports, Estonia and Norway have requested that the U.N. Security Council meet to discuss the situation in Afghanistan as quickly as possible.
Updated at 4:05 p.m.