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Updated on: Sunday, August 15, 2021, 11:08 PM IST

Taliban seizes Afghanistan presidential palace as Ashraf Ghani flees to Tajikistan

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The Taliban have seized the Presidential Palace in Kabul even as Afghanistan's embattled president appears to have fled to Tajikistan.

Thousands of countrymen and foreigners were also on the run with many converging at Pakistan border in last ditch bid to escape, as Taliban fighters entered Kabul, having overrun other key cities.

Having met with little resistance, a Taliban spokesman said they were looking for a ‘‘peaceful surrender’’ of the capital and a ‘‘peaceful transfer of power.’’

The inevitable surrender came – sending all American calculations for a toss -- even as there was frenzied activity all day as helicopters raced overhead to evacuate personnel from the U.S. Embassy. The British forces scrambled RAF planes to evacuate 6,000 diplomats, citizens and Afghan translators. Foreigners in Kabul have been told they should either leave or register their presence with Taliban administrators.

Taliban leader Mullah Baradar, who is based in Qatar, is heading to Afghanistan where he is expected to head the new interim government after the transfer which will see President Ghani relinquishing power.

· It is understood that the US is trying to strike a deal so that the Taliban do not to descend on Kabul until its 10,000 citizens are evacuated. The Taliban has warned the US it must cease airstrikes or else its extremist fighters will move in.

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The militant 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.'’ They added they do not intend to take Kabul 'by force.'

Meanwhile, the Bagram air base, which holds ISIS and Taliban fighters, has also been overrun; there were unconfirmed reports of the prisoners being released. Hundreds of billions of dollars were spent by the U.S. and NATO over two decades to build up the Afghan security forces.

An Afghan official earlier confirmed Jalalabad fell under Taliban control without a fight early Sunday morning when the governor surrendered, saying it was 'the only way to save civilian lives.' Its fall has also given the Taliban control of a road leading to the Pakistan city of Peshawar, one of the main highways into landlocked Afghanistan.

Besides Kabul, just seven other 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.

Civilians fearing that the Taliban could reimpose the kind of brutal rule that all but eliminated women's rights rushed to leave the country as well, lining up at cash machines to withdraw their life savings. The desperately poor - who had left homes in the countryside for the hoped-for safety in the capital - remained in their thousands in parks and open spaces.

One Afghan university student described feeling betrayed as she watched the evacuation of the U.S. Embassy. "You failed the younger generation of Afghanistan," said Aisha Khurram, 22, who is now unsure of whether she'll be able to graduate in two months' time. "A generation ... raised in the modern Afghanistan were hoping to build the country with their own hands. They put blood, efforts and sweat into whatever we had right now."

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Published on: Sunday, August 15, 2021, 11:08 PM IST
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