Taliban fighters surrounded Kabul as the US hastily evacuated diplomats from its embassy by helicopter.
Taliban fighters encircled the Afghan capital on Sunday and said they were awaiting a “peaceful transfer” of the city after promising not to take it by force.
Here is what we know so far:
Taliban fighters amassed on the outskirts of Kabul and were on the brink of a complete military takeover of Afghanistan. But a spokesman said they were ordered not to enter the capital.
“Our forces have not entered Kabul city, and we just issued a statement saying that our forces will not enter Kabul city,” Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told Al Jazeera. “We are talking and awaiting a peaceful transfer – a transition of the capital city.”
A tweet from the Afghan Presidential palace account said gunfire had been heard at a number of points around Kabul but security forces – in coordination with international partners – remained in control of the city.
What about Afghanistan’s president?
Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani promised via a television address on Sunday to take responsibility for the security of the people of Kabul and meet anyone disturbing the law and order with “full force”.
Officials say the Taliban is seeking the unconditional surrender of the central government.
Who is in charge?
Afghan Interior Minister Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal said there would be a “peaceful transfer of power” to a transitional government.
“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,” he said in a recorded speech.
An Afghan official told The Associated Press that Taliban negotiators were heading to the presidential palace to prepare for a “transfer” of power.
There was no immediate word on the situation from President Ghani. A palace official said he was in emergency talks with US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and top NATO officials.
Kabul residents reported seeing Taliban fighters peacefully enter some of Kabul’s outer suburbs.
Things are back to normal around me in Kabul. Most people have taken to their homes again as more and more reports come out about an impending peaceful transition of power
— Ali M Latifi (@alibomaye) August 15, 2021
What was the international reaction?
Russia said it was working with other countries to hold an emergency UN Security Council meeting on Afghanistan as the Taliban completes its takeover, foreign ministry official Zamir Kabulov told Russian news agencies. “We are working on this,” Kabulov said.
Kabulov also said Moscow does not plan to evacuate its embassy in Kabul, saying the Taliban had offered Russia security assurances for its missions in Afghanistan.
US officials said diplomats were being ferried by helicopter to the airport from its embassy. More American troops were being sent to help in the evacuations.
US President Joe Biden said it was up to the Afghan military to hold its own territory. “An endless American presence in the middle of another country’s civil conflict was not acceptable to me,” Biden said on Saturday.
Pakistan foreign officer spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhry said there were concerns “about the increasingly deteriorating situation,” but “we have not taken any decision to close our embassy”.
Based on the recommendations of our diplomatic, military, & intelligence teams, @POTUS has authorized the deployment of approximately 5,000 U.S. troops to ensure an orderly & safe drawdown of U.S. Embassy & other allied personnel
— U.S. Embassy Kabul (@USEmbassyKabul) August 15, 2021