Afghanistan Falls To Taliban, Top Leader Abdul Ghani Baradar Likely To Be New President
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Afghanistan Falls To Taliban, Top Leader Abdul Ghani Baradar Likely To Be New President

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Dozens of Taliban fighters have taken control of the presidential palace in Afghanistan capital Kabul, declaring victory over the Afghan government in images broadcast on television. “Our country has been liberated and the mujahideen are victorious in Afghanistan,” one militant told news channel Al Jazeera from the palace.

The fighters showed reporters their weapons in a tour of the building, seized after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.

Diplomatic sources told CNN-News18 on Sunday that the Taliban said Ghani has handed over the government to them and there would be no power sharing. In a late night statement, the Taliban said: “This is a takeover and no interim arrangement.” “We want all missions to stay and we assure them that they are safe here,” it added.

Sources said Taliban’s Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar is likely to be Afghanistan’s new President.

The Taliban has, meanwhile, asked people to not leave their homes till tomorrow 8am. All commercial flights have also been banned from Kabul airport and only military aircraft are allowed to take off. The airport is, however, still under NATO control.

Afghanistan’s first Vice President Amrullah Saleh vowed to never bow down to the Taliban. “I will never, ever and under no circumstances bow to d Talib terrorists. I will never betray d soul and legacy of my hero Ahmad Shah Masoud, the commander, the legend and the guide. I won’t disappoint millions who listened to me. I will never be under one ceiling with the Taliban. NEVER (sic),” he tweeted.

Ghani Resigns, Flees To Tajikistan

Hours after the Taliban entered Kabul on Sunday, President Ghani left the city for Tajikistan. In a post on Facebook, Ghani said he fled the country to “prevent a flood of bloodshed”, adding that he believed that “countless patriots would be martyred and Kabul would be destroyed” if he had stayed behind.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s first Vice President Amrullah Saleh vowed to never bow down to the Taliban. “I will never, ever and under no circumstances bow to d Talib terrorists. I will never betray d soul and legacy of my hero Ahmad Shah Masoud, the commander, the legend and the guide. I won’t disappoint millions who listened to me. I will never be under one ceiling with the Taliban. NEVER (sic),” he tweeted.

Kabul Seizure

Taliban fighters entered the outskirts of Kabul on Sunday as panicked workers fled government offices and helicopters began landing in the US embassy in the Afghan capital, further tightening the militants’ grip on the country. Taliban insurgents had encircled Kabul “from all sides”, Reuters reported, adding that there were no reports of fighting.

Three Afghan officials told the Associated Press that the fighters were in the districts of Kalakan, Qarabagh and Paghman in the capital. The militants themselves didn’t acknowledge the advance, though they earlier took Jalalabad, near a major border crossing with Pakistan.

The insurgents took control of the key eastern city of Jalalabad on Sunday, just hours after seizing the northern anti-Taliban bastion of Mazar-i-Sharif. Just before residents confirmed the fall of Mazar-i-Sharif, a beleaguered Ghani had addressed the nation, vowing to prevent further bloodshed, despite the rout suffered by Afghan forces over the last 10 days.

Taliban Want Complete Power

Taking over the Presidential Palace in Kabul, the Taliban said they were seeking complete power, Reuters reported. In the wake of the Taliban advancement in Kabul, American diplomats were evacuated from their embassy by helicopter to the airport as local Afghan forces, trained for years and equipped by the United States and others for billions of dollars, melted away.

There were also some reports of sporadic gunfire around the city. A Kabul hospital said more than 40 people wounded in clashes on the outskirts were being treated, but there did not appear to be major fighting.

Foreign Nations Shut Embassies

European powers present in Afghanistan, meanwhile, moved to evacuate their nationals and local staff. Other NATO members, including Britain, Italy, Denmark, Sweden and Spain, have also announced they are evacuating their embassy personnel.

People familiar with the development said the government will not put the lives of its staffers at the Indian embassy and Indian citizens in Kabul at any risk and plans have already been finalised in case they require emergency evacuation.

US embassy staff in Kabul were leaving the compound and moving to the airport, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday. Britain is deploying around 600 troops to help evacuate its roughly 3,000 nationals from the country, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the “vast bulk” of remaining embassy staff in Kabul would return to the UK.

Canada has suspended diplomatic operations in Afghanistan and Canadian personnel are on their way back to Canada, while Spain’s defence ministry says it has not yet begun evacuating Spanish nationals and Afghan staff, including translators who are expected to be flown out alongside its citizens, but was speeding up its plans.

Germany on Sunday downed the shutters on its embassy in Kabul and sped up preparations to evacuate its citizens and local helpers, while France also set up a temporary diplomatic mission near Kabul airport.

India’s ‘Contingency Plans’

Meanwhile, India has put in place contingency plans to evacuate hundreds of its officials and citizens from Kabul that has been gripped by fear and panic.

People familiar with the development said the government will not put the lives of its staffers at the Indian embassy and Indian citizens in Kabul at any risk and plans have already been finalised in case they require emergency evacuation.

“The government is closely monitoring the fast-paced developments in Afghanistan. We will not put the lives of our staff at the Indian embassy in Kabul at any risk,” said one of the persons cited above. Specifically asked when the Indian staffers and citizens in Kabul will be evacuated, they said decisions will depend on the ground situation.

It is learnt that a fleet of the C-17 Globemaster military transport aircraft of the Indian Air Force is kept on standby to undertake evacuation missions.

In the last few days, the Taliban fighters have swept through most parts of Afghanistan, seizing control of around 25 of the 34 provincial capitals, including cities such as Kandahar, Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif and Jalalabad.

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