On Sunday, the Taliban were on the verge of total victory in Afghanistan, their fighters ordered to wait on the outskirts of the capital and the government conceding that it was preparing for a “transfer of power”.
Taliban militants surrounded Kabul following an astonishing rout of government forces and warlord militias in just 10 days.
The fall of Kabul would see the hard-line Islamic group regain power two decades after US-led forces toppled it in the attacks of September 11, 2001.
“The Islamic Emirate orders all its forces to stand at the gates of Kabul, not to try to enter the city,” tweeted a Taliban spokesman as residents reported insurgents on the outskirts of the city. city. “Until the completion of the transition process, responsibility for the security of Kabul rests with the other party [the Afghan government]. “
The Afghan government reported soon after that negotiations were underway to prevent bloodshed in Kabul and to give control to the Taliban.
“The Afghan people should not worry (…) there will be no attack on the city and there will be a peaceful transfer of power to the transitional government,” the interior minister said. Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal in a recorded speech.
But the impending Taliban takeover has sparked fear and panic in Kabul among residents fearing the group’s radical Islam.
“I saw the police take off their uniforms and put on shalwar kameezsaid one local, referring to traditional South Asian clothing.
The scale and speed of the insurgent advance has shocked Afghans and the US-led alliance that has poured billions into the country over the past two decades.
President Ashraf Ghani’s government was left completely isolated on Sunday after the Taliban claimed the anti-Taliban stronghold of Mazar-i-Sharif and the eastern city of Jalalabad.
As with most of the other captured towns, the seizure of power came after the surrender or withdrawal of government forces.
He left the Taliban with all the cards in hand in any negotiated surrender of the capital.
On Saturday, Ghani sought authority with a national speech in which he spoke of “re-mobilizing” the military while seeking a “political solution” to the crisis.
He urged government forces on Sunday to maintain security in Kabul, after the Taliban halted their radical advance on the outskirts of the capital, causing widespread panic.
“It is our responsibility and we will do it in the best possible way. Anyone who thinks of chaos, looting or looting will be fought with force,” he said in a video released to the media.
US President Joe Biden ordered the deployment of an additional 1,000 US troops to help secure the emergency evacuation from Kabul of embassy workers and thousands of Afghans who worked for US forces and now fear the retaliation from the Taliban.
This is in addition to the 3,000 US troops deployed in recent days, and 1,000 remained in the country after Biden announced in May that the final withdrawal of the 20-year military presence in Afghanistan would be completed on September 11.
The move came under scrutiny given the collapse of the Afghan armed forces, but he insisted on Saturday that there was no choice.
“I was the fourth president to preside over a US troop presence in Afghanistan – two Republicans, two Democrats. I would not let and take this war to a fifth,” Biden said.
Videos posted to pro-Taliban social media accounts showed the group’s heavily armed fighters in cities across the country, waving white flags and greeting residents.
Most of the fighters appeared young, suggesting they were most likely infants or unborn when the Taliban was overthrown from power in 2001.
In Mazar-i-Sharif, Taliban fighters quickly took matters into their own hands on Sunday.
“They parade on their vehicles and motorcycles, firing in the air to celebrate,” said Atiqullah Ghayor, who lives near the city’s famous Blue Mosque.
Warlords Abdul Rashid Dostum and Atta Mohammad Noor, who had led a resistance militia in the town to support government forces, fled to Uzbekistan, about 30 kilometers to the north, an aide to Noor said.
As the Taliban moved closer to the capital, panicked residents stormed the banks for the second day in a row, hoping to withdraw their savings.
Many were already resigned to the seizure of power by the Taliban.
“My only wish is that their return will lead to peace. That’s all we want,” said Tariq Nezami, a Kabul trader.
For the tens of thousands of people who have sought refuge in Kabul in recent weeks, the mood was apprehensive and fearful.
A doctor who arrived in the capital with his family of 35 from Kunduz said he plans to return today.
“I’m afraid there is a lot of fighting here. I prefer to go home, where I know it stopped,” he told AFP on condition of anonymity.
by Jay Deshmukh, AFP
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