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Kabul breached: Taliban seize presidential palace, declare ‘war is over’

CM 15/08/2021

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The Taliban Islamist insurgency group has seized control of the presidential palace in Kabul and is set to declare that the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” according to footage obtained by Al Jazeera.

“We assure everyone that we will provide safety for citizens and diplomatic missions. We are ready to have a dialog with all Afghan figures and will guarantee them the necessary protection,” spokesman Mohammad Naeem told the Qatar-based channel.
The group added that it does not think foreign forces will repeat “their failed experience in Afghanistan again.”
“We move with responsibility in every step and make sure to have peace with everyone… We are ready to deal with the concerns of the international community through dialog,” Naeem told Al Jazeera.
The Islamist group seized the presidential palace following the flight of President Ashraf Ghani, who reportedly fled to Tashkent in Uzbekistan. According to the Taliban’s spokesperson, nobody expected Ghani would flee, not even those close to him.
A mass exodus from Kabul seems imminent, with footage being spread on social media of huge crowds gathering at the airport in an attempt to flee the country.
The United Nations Security Council is set to convene Monday on Afghanistan after the country’s president fled and the Taliban seizes control of Kabul. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had also called NATO’s North Atlantic Council to meet on the burgeoning crisis that has captured the world’s attention.
President Ashraf Ghani left Afghanistan after Taliban fighters entered the capital Kabul earlier on Sunday, capping their return to power two decades after being forced out by US-led forces. As they entered Kabul, the US embassy in Afghanistan reported that Kabul airport has been taking fire.
The president later posted on Facebook saying, “Today I came across a tough choice. I had to face the armed Taliban who want to enter the palace or leave the country I have dedicated my life to protecting and nurturing for the last 20 years. If left unchecked, countless patriots would be martyred and the city of Kabul would be devastated, resulting in a major humanitarian catastrophe in the 6-million-strong city. The Taliban had made it clear that they were ready to carry out a bloody attack on all of Kabul and the people of Kabul to oust me. In order to prevent a flood of bloodshed, I decided to leave.”
The government’s acting interior minister, Abdul Sattar Mirzakawal, had said that power would be handed over to a transitional administration.Two Taliban officials told Reuters on Sunday there would be no transitional government in Afghanistan and that the group expects a complete handover of power.
Top Afghan peace official Abdullah Abdullah described Ashraf Ghani as Afghanistan’s former president in a video message on Sunday.
He blamed Ghani for the current situation in Afghanistan, hours after Taliban insurgents entered the capital Kabul.
Taliban’s Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar is preparing to arrive in Afghanistan, according to an official in Doha. Earlier, acting Interior Minister Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal said in a televised address that a peaceful transition would take place but no details have as yet been confirmed.
Ali Ahmad Jalali, a US-based academic and former Afghan interior minister, is likely to be named to head an interim administration in Kabul, three diplomatic sources said on Sunday as Taliban fighters gathered around the city.
It was not immediately clear whether the Taliban had given their final agreement to Jalali’s appointment but he was seen as a potentially acceptable compromise figure to oversee the transition of power, the sources said.
President Ghani, who said on Saturday he was in urgent consultations with local leaders and international partners on the situation, held emergency talks with US special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad as well as top NATO officials.After its lightning advance on the capital, the insurgent group ordered its fighters to refrain from violence, allow safe passage to anyone seeking to leave and request women to head to protected areas, said a Taliban leader in Doha. Taliban fighters were also ordered to stand at all entry points of Kabul.
Taliban fighters have completely encircled Kabul, according to a Taliban official. Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, as well as Afghan hospitals, will continue to function as usual, he stated.
“We don’t want a single, innocent Afghan civilian to be injured or killed as we take charge,” the official told Reuters. “But we have not declared a ceasefire,” he added. The official called on Afghan forces to stop gunfire and allow a safe passage out of Kabul to all civilians and foreigners. He also noted Mujahideen have not killed or injured anyone in Kabul yet.
Taliban expects a peaceful transition of power in the next few days, a spokesperson said on Sunday, as the insurgents reached Afghanistan’s capital Kabul with little resistance.
“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.”
The spokesperson has commented on several aspects of the future government, as they prepare for a peaceful transition of power.
The spokesperson said that police and officials in Kabul have fled.
Taliban’s policy on punishments, such as execution, stoning, and amputation will be up to courts, the spokesperson said. In addition, Afghan media will be allowed to criticize anyone, according to the spokesperson, who has also warned the media of “indulging in character assassination.”
On the future Taliban government’s policy towards women, they stated Afghan women will be allowed to leave homes alone, as well as have access to education and work. In addition, Taliban “does not intend to take revenge on government and military personnel, and all those who have served the state will be forgiven,” according to the spokesperson.
Afghan civilians who want to leave the country due to fear were asked to remain in Afghanistan. “Foreigners in Kabul should leave if they wish to, or register their presence in the coming week with Taliban administrators,” an official said.
An Afghanistan government delegation, including senior official Abdullah Abdullah, will travel to Qatar on Sunday to meet with representatives of the Taliban, an Afghanistan negotiator said.
Fawzi Koofi, a member of the Kabul negotiating team, confirmed to Reuters the delegation would meet with the Taliban in the Gulf state.
A source familiar with the matter told Reuters the Afghan delegation and Taliban representatives would discuss a transition of power, adding that US officials would also be involved.
A number of gunshots were heard around Kabul. according to the Afghan President’s Office Twitter account, Afghanistan’s security and defense forces currently have the situation under control.
The Taliban has also ordered its fighters to enter the Afghan capital Kabul to prevent looting after local police deserted their posts, a spokesman for the militant group said on Sunday.
The statement by Zabihullah Mujahid came shortly after a leading Afghan peace envoy said President Ashraf Ghani had left the country.
However, Kabul Hospital said on Twitter that more than 40 people were wounded in clashes on the outskirts of Kabul on Sunday.
“Most (people brought to the hospital) came from fighting in the #Qarabagh area,” it said, without giving any further details of the clashes. It made no reference to any fatalities.
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 Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul the only way out of Afghanistan that is still in government hands.


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