Islamist militant movement Taliban seized power of Afghanistan’s capital Kabul on Sunday, as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani left the country for Tajikistan.
A senior official in the Afghan Interior Ministry affirmed the departure of Ghani to Tajikistan. Moreover, the president’s office said, “It cannot say anything about Ashraf Ghani’s movement for security reasons,” according to Reuters.
Earlier, the Taliban asked Ghani to stay and work with them. “We call on President Ashraf Ghani and Afghan leaders to work with us,” a Taliban spokesperson said.
The news of Ghani’s departure comes only a few hours after he gave orders to the Afghan forces to maintain order and security in the capital.
Taliban Spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid, said the movement ordered their fighters to enter Kabul to keep security in the capital, according to Afghan Tolo television network.
There were also reports that inmates at the city’s main prison were released, triggering a massive effort to airlift Western diplomats and civilians, as the country’s demoralized security forces offered no resistance.
A state of fear and panic swept the capital after the Taliban’s imminent takeover. Thousands took to streets in Kabul trying to get home or to the airport, according to residents.
Moreover, foreign countries started to evacuate their nationals. The US deployed an additional 1,000 US troops to help secure the emergency evacuation of the American embassy employees and Afghans who worked with American forces.
American officials said diplomats were transferred by helicopters to the airport in the fortified Wazir Akbar Khan district, while a NATO official said several European Union staff moved to a safer location in Kabul.
The United Kingdom also deployed 600 military personnel in Kabul to evacuate key British nationals and set up an operation room to help 5,500 people flee the country.
Meanwhile, Russia did not announce any plan to evacuate its embassy in Kabul, as it was one of the countries that received guarantees from the Taliban regarding the safety of their diplomats.
Germany also closed its embassy in Kabul and sped up preparations to evacuate its citizens as well as Afghans who used to work for the German military or other institutions.
“The security situation has deteriorated drastically. The German embassy in Kabul is closed as of 15 August,” the foreign office in Berlin said on its website.
According to diplomats, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas decided to move the embassy staff to the military part of Kabul airport where they are supposed to resume working.
The United Arab Emirates also suspended its flight to Afghanistan. An Emirates spokesperson said that his country was monitoring developments in Afghanistan and were working closely with all the relevant authorities.
In a similar context, Taliban Spokesperson Suhail Shaheen told BBC, “In the next few days, we want a peaceful transfer of power. People can resume their normal activities. There is no revenge against all those who are working with the Kabul administration or foreign forces.”
He asserted, “We want all embassies to continue their work. There will be no risk to diplomats. All should continue the work they were doing in the past.”
Meanwhile, the Afghan government said that negotiations are underway to avoid bloodshed in Kabul.
Afghan Interior Minister Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal said in a recorded speech, “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.”
Early Saturday, the Taliban seized a province just south of Kabul and launched a multi-pronged assault on a major city in the north, Afghan officials said.
Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said at a briefing, “Clearly from their actions, it appears as if (Taliban) are trying to get Kabul isolated.”
Since President Joe Biden’s April decision to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan before 11 September, the Taliban made stunning battlefield advances with nearly the entire country under their control.
Ten provincial capitals fell into Taliban’s control, in several cases with minimal resistance from the Afghan security forces. During the past week, Taliban controlled territories they were unable to subdue when they were in power between 1996 and 2001.