By John Ikani
Taliban insurgents entered the Afghanistan capital, Kabul on Sunday, an Interior Ministry Official said, as the United States evacuated diplomats from its embassy by helicopter.
The development came just hours after the group seized control of the key eastern city of Jalalabad, securing critical roads connecting the country to Pakistan.
The senior official told newsmen that the Taliban were coming in “from all sides” but gave no further details.
A Taliban leader in Doha, which has been the site of years-long peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the group, said fighters on Sunday were ordered to refrain from violence and offer safe passage to those wishing to leave Kabul.
A tweet from the Afghan Presidential palace account said firing had been heard at a number of points around Kabul, but that security forces, in coordination with international partners, had control of the city.
U.S. officials said the diplomats were being ferried to the airport from the embassy in the fortified Wazir Akbar Khan district. More American troops were being sent to help in the evacuations after the Taliban’s lightning advances brought the Islamist group to Kabul in a matter of days.
“Core” U.S. team members were working from the Kabul airport, a U.S. official said, while a NATO official said several EU staff had moved to a safer, undisclosed location in the capital.
What you should know
A US-led military campaign in Afghanistan began in 2001 following the 9/11 attacks on American soil – but now most of the foreign troops have pulled out.
In April, Biden announced that he would fully withdraw military forces in keeping with a February 2020 deal the Trump administration struck with the Taliban.
Biden’s decision came after an administration review of U.S. options in Afghanistan, where U.S.-midwifed peace talks have failed to advance as hoped and the Taliban remains a potent force despite two decades of effort by the United States to defeat the militants and establish stable, democratic governance.
The war has cost trillions of dollars in addition to the lives of more than 2,000 U.S. service members. At least 100,000 Afghan civilians have been injured or killed.
The Taliban group has now seized Afghanistan’s biggest cities while Kabul now remains the biggest prize waiting to be taken by the Islamists, ousted in 2001 by the Americans.
Biden on Tuesday said he does not regret his move to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, as Taliban militants continue to make rapid advances.
While Afghanistan’s leaders are beginning to unite and “fight for their nation, “Biden said the US would sustain the commitments it had made to Afghanistan, such as providing close air support, paying military salaries and supplying Afghan forces with food and equipment.