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Taliban Enter Kabul, Seek Transfer Of Power As US Evacuates From Afghanistan

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Taliban Enter Kabul, Seek Transfer Of Power As US Evacuates From Afghanistan

Taliban militants waving a Taliban flag on the back of a pickup truck drive past a crowded street at Pashtunistan Square area in Jalalabad, Afghanistan in this still image taken from social media video uploaded on August 15, 2021. Social media website/via REUTERS

Islamic insurgent group, Taliban have on Sunday entered Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul to a negotiate a “peaceful surrender” of the city, a spokesman for the group said as foreign diplomats and many locals try to flee.

Three Afghan officials told the Associated Press that the Taliban were in the districts of Kalakan, Qarabagh and Paghman.

Taliban fighters were reaching the capital “from all sides“, a senior Afghan interior ministry official told Reuters. However, in an unusual manner, there were no reports of fighting.

The insurgent’s regaining of control comes after US President Joe Biden announced in April the country would pull its troops out of Afghanistan after two decades, but their takeover took place far quicker than anticipated, with U.S. military intelligence reportedly predicting just days ago they Taliban could retake Kabul within three months.

Taliban previously retreated from Kabul in 2001 after the U.S. initially imposed a military presence in the region in the wake of September 11—nearly exactly 20 years before the fall of Kabul taking place now—after taking control of the city in September 1996.

Taliban forces patrol a street in Herat, Afghanistan August 14, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer

However in latest development, the insurgents have been instructed by the group’s leadership “to remain at the gates of Kabul, not to enter the city,” Taliban spokesman, Suhail Shaheen told the BBC Sunday, saying the forces are “awaiting a peaceful transfer of power” which they expect to happen within “days.”

They are in talks with Western-backed government for the surrender, another Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said.

Speaking in a statement, he stated;

Taliban fighters are to be on standby on all entrances of Kabul until a peaceful and satisfactory transfer of power is agreed.

Ali Ahmad Jalali, a U.S.-based academic and former Afghan interior minister, could be named head of an interim administration in Kabul, three diplomatic sources said, though it was unclear whether the Taliban had agreed.

Known during their past rule for keeping girls out of school and their hardline practice of Islamic law, including punishments of amputation, stoning and hanging, the Taliban appear to be trying to project a more modern face.

Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani and acting defence minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi visit military corps in Kabul, Afghanistan August 14, 2021. Afghan Presidential Palace/Handout via REUTERS

Mujahid added;

Until a peace agreement is agreed, the security of the city and its residents is the responsibility of the government and they should guarantee it.

In a separate statement to NBC News, a Taliban spokesman said those entering the city were unarmed on instructions from senior commanders.

The Taliban “do not wish to take revenge,” he expressed, adding that government and military workers would “be forgiven” and placed under the group’s protection.

Meanwhile, acting Afghan Interior Minister Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal on Sunday the government would transfer “peacefully” to a “transitional” government, but did not specify what that new administration would look like, CNN reports.

Elsewhere in the city, U.S. forces continued to evacuate staff from the U.S. Embassy. Defense officials told Reuters on Sunday that the military was working to move people to the airport quickly.

A general view of the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 15, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer

We have a small batch of people leaving nAow as we speak, a majority of the staff are ready to leave,” a U.S. official revealed, adding; “The embassy continues to function.”

This is the same for other countries with presences in the region, though a core group of U.S. diplomatic staff is expected to remain at Kabul Airport “for as long as possible given security conditions,” AP reports.

Thousands of civilians are also living in parks and open spaces in Kabul. While the city appeared calm Sunday, some ATMs have stopped distributing money.

Hundreds of people also gathered in front of private banks, trying to withdraw their life savings.

President Joe Biden had on Saturday said he had ordered a return of 5,000 troops to the region, up from his original number of 3,000.

He added that the U.S. presence in Afghanistan has to end, saying;

One more year, or five more years, of U.S. military presence would not have made a difference if the Afghan military cannot or will not hold its own country. And an endless American presence in the middle of another country’s civil conflict was not acceptable to me.

The Taliban’s entrance into Kabul completes the insurgent group’s swift takeover of Afghanistan’s biggest cities over the past week as the U.S. has pulled its military forces out of the region.

On Sunday, Afghan forces at Bagram air base, once a bustling minicity that saw more than 100,000 U.S. troops pass through its gates, surrendered to the Taliban, two U.S. defense officials told NBC News.

An Afghan soldier stands in a military vehicle on a street in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 15, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer

Elsewhere, the group also continued to make gains, capturing the Maidan Shar, the capital of the Maidan Wardak province on Sunday. The city sits around 55 miles from Kabul, Afghan lawmaker Hamida Akbari and the Taliban said.

The insurgents also captured the eastern city of Jalalabad, 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.

These came after Mazar-e-Sharif, the country’s fourth largest city fell Saturday, given the insurgents control over all of northern Afghanistan.

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