Taliban militants took control of Afghanistan’s capital Kabul on Sunday, including the presidential palace after President Ashraf Ghani left the country.
The United States sent 6,000 troops to help evacuate U.S. personnel, including from its embassy, as well as Afghans who worked with American troops, including translators.
The Taliban took control of almost the entire country ahead of the total withdrawal of U.S. military forces.
The fighters entered Kabul, rather than remaining on the outskirts, because Afghan government security forces had abandoned their posts, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement.
“This morning the Islamic Emirate released a statement that our forces were outside Kabul city and we did not want to enter Kabul through military ways,” he said. “However, now we are getting reports that the district police offices are evacuated, police has left their job of ensuring the security, also the ministries are emptied and the security personnel of the Kabul administration has fled.”
The Taliban had said fighters were ordered to remain on the edges of the capital with negotiations taking place to ensure a peaceful transition of power. “We assure the people in Afghanistan — there will be no revenge on anyone,” a Taliban spokesman said.
Ghani, a former economist who has served as Afghanistan’s president since 2014, departed from the nation, Adbullah Adbullah, the Afghan chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, said in a video statement. He used to be an American citizen but he gave up his passport to run for the Afghan presidency in 2009.
“Today, I came across a hard choice; I should stand to face the armed Taliban who wanted to enter the palace or leave the dear country that I dedicated my life to protecting and protecting the past twenty years,” Ghani posted on Facebook. “If there were still countless countrymen martyred and they would face the destruction and destruction of Kabul city, the result would have been a big human disaster in this six million city. The Taliban have made it to remove me, they are here to attack all Kabul and the people of Kabul. In order to avoid the bleeding flood, I thought it was best to get out.”
He wrote the future for Afghanistan is uncertain.
“Taliban have won the judgement of sword and guns and now they are responsible for protecting the countrymen’s honor, wealth and self-esteem,” the post read. “Never in history has dry power given legitimacy to anyone and won’t give it to them. They are now facing a new historical test; either they will protect the name and honor of Afghanistan or they will prioritize other places and networks. Many people and many Aqshar are in fear and are unreliable in the future. It is necessary for Taliban to assure all the people, nations, different sectors, sisters and women of Afghanistan to win the legitimacy and the hearts of the people.”
A witness told CNN that Hamid Karzai International Airport was in a chaotic situation, as most foreigners attempted to leave the country.
“There are big crowds trying to get in and at one stage shooting erupted,” the witness said.
“There was also a warning of a ground attack and we were in a bunker for the past hour but now it is all clear. It’s all foreigners here. One young European woman was freaking out.”
A 22-year-old student told the BBC that he had walked more than five hours to reach the airport.
“My feet hurt, they have blisters and I’m finding it difficult to stand,” he said. “It was like a military town – people were in traditional clothes, but they had weapons and were firing in the air. It reminded me of the jihad that I heard of from my parents.”
Staff from the U.S. Kabul embassy seen boarding military planes at the airport.
The process will take 72 hours, two sources familiar with the situation told CNN on Sunday. A small number of core personnel, including the top U.S. diplomat will remain at the Kabul airport.
Earlier Sunday, militants took without a fight control of Jalalabad, a key eastern city, which means roads are secured the roads connecting the country with Pakistan.