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Taliban reaches Kabul, awaits ‘peaceful transfer’ of power

Taliban reaches Kabul, awaits ‘peaceful transfer’ of power

Taliban reaches Kabul, awaits ‘peaceful transfer’ of power

The fall of Jalalabad has left Afghanistan's central government in control of just Kabul and seven other provincial capitals out of the country's 34. Meanwhile, the US has announced that evacuation of the embassy in Kabul has started.

A. US Black Hawk military helicopter flies over the city of Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, August 15, 2021. (AP)

The Taliban expects a peaceful transition of power in the next few days, a spokesman has said, as the insurgents reached Afghanistan's capital Kabul with little resistance.

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Suhail Shaheen added that the militant group would protect the rights of women, as well as freedoms for media workers and diplomats.

"We assure the people, particularly in the city of Kabul, that their properties, their lives are safe," the spokesman said in an interview with the BBC.

"Our leadership had instructed our forces to remain at the gates of Kabul, not to enter the city.

"We are awaiting a peaceful transfer of power," he said, adding the Taliban expected that to happen in a matter of days.

Earlier, Taliban fighters entered the outskirts of Kabul and promised not to take the capital by force.

Meanwhile, panicked residents raced to leave the capital, with workers fleeing government offices and helicopters landing at the US Embassy on Sunday.

Nationwide offensive

In a nationwide offensive that has taken just over a week, the Taliban has defeated, co-opted or sent Afghan security forces fleeing from wide swaths of the country, even though they had some air support from the US military.

The collapse of Jalalabad, near a major border crossing with Pakistan, left Afghanistan's central government in control of just Kabul and a few other provincial capitals out of the country's 34.

On Sunday, they reached Kabul.

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told TRT World that the insurgents want a peaceful transfer of power and that they want to enter the capital city peacefully, where he announced a "general amnesty for all."

Shaheen rejected reports of rights abuses by the insurgent militants calling them "baseless" and " exaggerated" and said that anyone found violating the group's policy and law in this regard will be tried and prosecuted.

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

Later, Afghan forces at Bagram air base, home to a prison housing 5,000 inmates, surrendered to the Taliban, according to Bagram district chief Darwaish Raufi. The prison housed both Taliban and Islamic State group fighters.

The lightning speed of the push has shocked many and raised questions about why Afghan forces crumbled despite years of US training and billions of dollars spent. Just days ago, an American military assessment estimated it would be a month before the capital would come under insurgent pressure.

Negotiations

Taliban negotiators headed to the presidential palace Sunday to discuss the transfer, said an Afghan official who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

It remained unclear when that transfer would take place.

The negotiators on the government side included former President Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, the head of the Afghan National Reconciliation Council, an official said. Abdullah long has been a vocal critic of President Ashraf Ghani, who long refused giving up power to get a deal with the Taliban.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the closed-doors negotiations, described them as “tense.”

Acting Defense Minister Bismillah Khan sought to reassure the public in a video message.

“I assure you about the security of Kabul,” he said.

Earlier, the insurgents also tried to calm residents of the capital.

“No one’s life, property and dignity will be harmed and the lives of the citizens of Kabul will not be at risk,” the insurgents said in a statement.

President Ashraf Ghani, who spoke to the nation on Saturday for the first time since the offensive began, appears increasingly isolated as well.

Warlords he negotiated with just days earlier have surrendered to the Taliban or fled, leaving Ghani without a military option.

While Kabul appeared calm Sunday, some ATMs stopped distributing cash as hundreds gathered in front of private banks, trying to withdraw their life savings.

US, Britain, Germany rush evacuation of embassy staff

The United States announced on Sunday that evacuation of the embassy in Kabul has started, as the UK and Germany also rush to evacuate their citizens out of Afghanistan.

To support the evacuation, US President Joe Biden authorised an additional 1,000 troops for deployment to Afghanistan.

Germany said it would bring forward charter flights originally planned for the end of August to evacuate non-essential embassy staff in Kabul as well as Afghan helpers.

The Czech government also said on Saturday it would evacuate its two diplomats from its embassy in Kabul along with local workers as the security situation worsened.

Jalalabad surrenders on negotiations with elders

Militants posted photos online early Sunday showing them in the governor's office in Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province.

Abrarullah Murad, a lawmaker from the province said that the insurgents seized Jalalabad after elders negotiated the fall of the government there. Murad said there was no fighting as the city surrendered.

The fall Saturday of Mazar-e-Sharif, the country’s fourth-largest city, which Afghan forces and two powerful former warlords had pledged to defend, handed the insurgents control over all of northern Afghanistan.

Atta Mohammad Noor and Abdul Rashid Dostum, two of the warlords Ghani tried to rally to his side days earlier, fled over the border into Uzbekistan on Saturday, said officials close to Dostum.

They spoke on condition of anonymity as they weren't authorized to publicly speak about his movements.

Writing on Twitter, Noor alleged a “conspiracy” aided the fall of the north to the Taliban, without elaborating.

“Despite our firm resistance, sadly, all the government and the Afghan security forces equipment were handed over to the Taliban as a result of a big organized and cowardly plot,” Noor wrote. “They had orchestrated the plot to trap Marshal Dostum and myself too, but they didn’t succeed.”

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