US diplomats being ferried to airport by helicopter
NEW DELHI – Taliban forces entered the Afghanistan capital Kabul on Sunday, Reuters reported quoting an official of the Afghan Interior Ministry. It also reported that the United States has evacuated diplomats from its embassy by helicopter.
The senior official told Reuters the Taliban were coming in “from all sides” but gave no further details.
According to Al Jazeera, the Taliban and Afghan government officials are in negotiations for a peaceful transfer of power. The Taliban promised not to attack as handover talks were under way.
The group said it has instructed its fighters to refrain from violence and offer safe passage to anyone wishing to leave Kabul.
The pics of evacuation of staff of @USEmbassyKabul by US army personnel by helicopter & not by road to Kabul Airport speak about volumes on humilating departure of super power from Afghanistan.#Afghanistan pic.twitter.com/Md2T1vpIGF
— Navaid Hamid نوید حامد (@navaidhamid) August 15, 2021
“Until the completion of the transition process, the responsibility for the security of Kabul is with the other side (the Afghan government),” a spokesman for the group said in a tweet.
The Afghan government soon after signaled there were negotiations under way to avoid bloodshed in Kabul and to transition power.
Afghan Minister of the Interior Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal said there will be a “peaceful transfer of power” to a transitional government after the Taliban ordered its fighters to hold back from entering Kabul.
“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,” he said in a recorded speech.
President Ghani still in Afghanistan
Al Jazeera quoted a source close to President Ashraf Ghani who denied reports that he has fled the country, saying the president spent most of the morning in the garden of the ARG Presidential Palace with the first lady.
A tweet from the Afghan Presidential palace account said 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.
US officials said the diplomats were being ferried to the airport from the embassy in the fortified Wazir Akbar Khan district. More American troops were being sent to help in the evacuations after the Taliban’s lightning advances brought the Islamist group to Kabul in a matter of days.
Just last week, a US intelligence estimate said Kabul could hold out for at least three months.
“Core” US team members were working from the Kabul airport, a US official said, while a NATO official said several EU staff had moved to a safer, undisclosed location in the capital.
Jalalabad, Mazar-i-Sharif, Torkham border post fall.
Earlier on Sunday, the insurgents captured the eastern city of Jalalabad without a fight, giving them control of one of the main highways into landlocked Afghanistan. They also took over the nearby Torkham border post with Pakistan, leaving Kabul airport the only way out of Afghanistan that is still in government hands.
The capture of Jalalabad followed the Taliban’s seizure of the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif late on Saturday, also with little fighting.
“There are no clashes taking place right now in Jalalabad because the governor has surrendered to the Taliban,” a Jalalabad-based Afghan official told Reuters. “Allowing passage to the Taliban was the only way to save civilian lives.”
A video clip distributed by the Taliban showed people cheering and shouting Allahu Akbar – God is greatest – as a convoy of pick-up trucks entered the city with fighters brandishing machine guns and the white Taliban flag.
President Joe Biden on Saturday authorised the deployment of 5,000 US troops to help evacuate citizens and ensure an “orderly and safe” drawdown of military personnel. A US defence official said that included 1,000 newly approved troops from the 82nd Airborne Division.