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Taliban Arrives at Kabul – Awaits Power Transfer

Smoke rises next to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 15, 2021.
Smoke rises next to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 15, 2021.

The Taliban have reached Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, and say they is awaiting a peaceful transfer of power.

Earlier Sunday the Taliban took over Jalalabad, capital of Nangarhar province and the last major city outside the capital to have been under government control.

Various reports said security forces were also retreating from other districts of Nangarhar province, which borders Pakistan and holds one of the key border crossings into Pakistan via Torkhem.

Also Sunday, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said their fighters took control of Bagram Air Base and the prison there and freed its inmates. There were high profile Taliban prisoners at Bagram, which served as the main base for the U.S.-led foreign military mission in Afghanistan.

The speed of the Taliban offensive has shocked both locals and the international community. While violence in the country has been high since 2020, after the Taliban signed a deal with the United States, the latest campaign against Afghan cities has been unexpectedly fast.

The Taliban gains started with the capital of Nimruz province Friday, August 6, and nine days later they have surrounded Kabul from all sides.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, in a recorded message Saturday, told the nation he was consulting with both national and international players on the situation which he called an “imposed war.”

“In the current scenario, our top priority is to revitalize the Afghan Security and Defense Forces,” he said.

The Taliban’s arrival at the gates of Kabul has embassies scrambling to get their personnel out.

The U.S. is sending 1,000 troops in addition to the 3,000 troops that were ordered to go in last week to help evacuate U.S. Embassy staff. Helicopters are reported ferrying staff to the Kabul airport.

“We have conveyed to the Taliban representatives in Doha, via our Combatant Commander, that any action on their part on the ground in Afghanistan, that puts U.S. personnel or our mission at risk there, will be met with a swift and strong U.S. military response,” President Joe Biden said according to a White House statement.

(Ayaz Gul from Pakistan contributed to this story.)