- President flees
Taliban militants seized the ancient Afghan Presidential Palace in Kabul yesterday after President Ashraf Ghani fled towards the Pakistani border to avoid being captured.
The fighters, who were seen posing for pictures in the palace, demanded a ‘peaceful transfer of power.’ They also said they would soon declare the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
The Taliban terror group said: ‘We don’t want a single, innocent Afghan civilian to be injured or killed as we take charge of Kabul, but we have not declared a ceasefire.’
Its leader, Mullah Baradar, who is based in Qatar, was said to be on his way to Afghanistan to take over the new interim government.
Associated Press and Mail0nline.com reported that thousands of Afghan nationals raced to Pakistan as the militants advanced to Kabul. This was shortly before the fall of Jalalabad where main highways to the Pakistan city of Peshawar pass through.
An Afghan official had earlier confirmed that Jalalabad was taken over by the Taliban without a fight when its governor surrendered, saying it was ‘the only way to save civilian lives.’’
United States helicopters were seen buzzing over Kabul and shielding American diplomats being evacuated from their embassy. This was after smoke rose near the compound.
US President Joe Biden was reported to have increased the number of troops being sent to evacuate 10,000 Americans in the crisis-torn country to 5,000.
Biden vowed that any action that puts Americans at risk ‘will be met with a swift and strong US military response.’
RAF planes were also scrambled to evacuate about 6,000 British diplomats, citizens, and Afghan translators.
Other foreigners in Kabul were told to either leave or register their presence with Taliban administrators.
Bagram airbase, holding ISIS and Taliban fighters, was also surrendered by troops yesterday morning, despite the hundreds of billions of dollars spent by the US and NATO over the past two decades to build up Afghanistan’s security forces. Only seven provincial capitals out of the country’s 34 are yet to fall to the Taliban after the military, which had been trained by the US, failed to stave off their attacks.
A US defense official had warned it could be only a matter of days before the insurgent fighters take control of Kabul.
But, Afghan Defence ministry sought to reassure the public that Kabul would remain ‘secure’ despite the gains made by the Taliban.