This is Dhaka Tribune's live coverage of the latest developments in Afghanistan as the Taliban enter Kabul, after taking control of the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, the last government stronghold in the country’s north.
BREAKING: First Footage of #Taliban leaders inside Presidential Palace in Kabul, #Afghanistan.— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) August 15, 2021
Country is now fully under militant group control. Afghan President fled, army collapsed, US evacuating: pic.twitter.com/ANQue1ooJx
Ghani says fled country to prevent 'flood of bloodshed'
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said that he had fled the country on Sunday to "prevent a flood of bloodshed," as the Taliban entered the capital, capping a lightning offensive across the country.
Ghani, who did not say where he had gone, said he believed "countless patriots would be martyred and the city of Kabul would be destroyed" if he had stayed behind.
"The Taliban have won... and are now responsible for the honour, property and self-preservation of their countrymen," he said in a statement posted to Facebook.
Sad truth of modern world !— Major Surendra Poonia (@MajorPoonia) August 15, 2021
Finally ..Taliban occupied & settled in the Presidential Palace of Afghanistan 🇦🇫 pic.twitter.com/6KsykYMa47
UNSC to meet on Monday
The United Nations Security Council is expected to meet tomorrow to discuss the political emergency in Afghanistan.
Turkish embassy in Kabul continues operations
Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Sunday that the Turkish embassy in the Afghan capital Kabul would continue its operations.
"We have made necessary preparations for the Turkish citizens who want to leave Afghanistan ... Our embassy in Kabul continues its operations," Cavusoglu said.
In a message to the people, former president Hamid Karzai asks the govt forces and Taliban to protect the people. He asks the people to stay in their homes & remain calm.— TOLOnews (@TOLOnews) August 15, 2021
Karzai says he and other political leaders will continue their efforts to solve the issues peacefully. pic.twitter.com/MIa2LKFtBL
European nations and the EU scrambled to evacuate their citizens and local staff from Kabul on Sunday, as Nato said it was trying to keep the airport open with the Taliban closing in on power.
Taliban officials sitting at the desk of now former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani... pic.twitter.com/W4PVJg0YXi— Trita Parsi (@tparsi) August 15, 2021
Qatar calls for peaceful transition of power
Qatar called on Sunday for a peaceful transition of power in Afghanistan that paves the way for a comprehensive political solution that includes all Afghan parties and realizes security and stability.
Taliban say they have entered multiple districts in Kabul to "ensure security."
#WATCH | "I can't believe the world abandoned #Afghanistan. Our friends are going to get killed. They (Taliban) are going to kill us. Our women are not going to have any more rights," says a woman who arrived in Delhi from Kabul pic.twitter.com/4mLiKFHApG— ANI (@ANI) August 15, 2021
'Countries should not recognize Taliban as Afghan govt'
Nobody should bilaterally recognize the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Sunday, adding it was clear that there would be a new administration in the country very shortly.
#Breaking A Taliban official says they will soon declare the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan from the presidential palace in Kabul— PA Media (@PA) August 15, 2021
Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Sunday the alliance was working to keep Kabul airport running as foreign powers rushed to evacuate staff after the Taliban closed in on power.
"Spoke with UK PM Boris Johnson and the foreign ministers of our allies Canada, Denmark and Netherlands on the situation in Afghanistan.
Spoke with #UK PM @BorisJohnson and the Foreign Ministers of our Allies #Canada, #Denmark and #Netherlands on the situation in #Afghanistan. #NATO is helping keep Kabul airport open to facilitate and coordinate evacuations.— Jens Stoltenberg (@jensstoltenberg) August 15, 2021
Nato is helping keep Kabul airport open to facilitate and coordinate evacuations," Stoltenberg wrote on Twitter.
The Taliban begins its rule in Kabul, Afghanistan. And the fruit seller didn’t stop selling—as you can hear in the background. pic.twitter.com/0kqCrYOgnh— Ezzatullah Mehrdad (@EzzatMehrdad) August 15, 2021
Taliban take over Presidential Palace
The Taliban has taken control of Afghanistan's presidential palace, two senior Taliban commanders present in Kabul told Reuters on Sunday, after President Ashraf Ghani left the country.
There was no confirmation from the Afghan government about the Taliban's claim. Government officials were not immediately contactable.
'Wounded arrive at Kabul hospital'
More than 40 people were wounded in clashes on the outskirts of Kabul on Sunday, a hospital in the Afghan capital said on Twitter after Taliban fighters entered the city.
"Most (people brought to the hospital) came from fighting in the #Qarabagh area," it said, without giving any further details of the clashes. It made no reference to any fatalities.
'Kabul airport under fire'
There are reports of gunfire at Kabul's airport, according to a security alert just issued by the US Embassy.
Officials have instructed US citizens in the area to take shelter, as "the security situation in Kabul is changing quickly."
UK ambassador to Afghanistan remains in Kabul
The UK ambassador to Afghanistan remains in Kabul and staff are doing all they can to help remaining UK nationals leave the country, UK Foreign Office spokesperson told CNN on Sunday.
'Russia is ready to cooperate'
The independent Russian news agency Interfax reports that Russia is “ready to cooperate” with Afghanistan’s interim government.
The interim administration is widely expected to be led by Taliban leaders.
A spokesman for the embassy, which earlier said there was no immediate need to evacuate the Afghan capital, also said Russia was taking part in political contacts in Afghanistan.
However, the Russian Foreign Ministry has confirmed that Moscow does not yet recognize the Taliban as Afghanistan’s lawful authority.
Taliban enter Kabul
A Taliban spokesman has confirmed that Taliban fighters have entered the city in response to a “law and order issue”.
Journalists on the ground including former Wall Street Journal reporter Habib Khan have confirmed the Taliban will enter the city in order to “control the chaos.”
Ghani has left Afghanistan
Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani has left the capital Kabul for Tajikistan, a senior Afghan Interior Ministry official said on Sunday.
Asked for comment, the president's office said it "cannot say anything about Ashraf Ghani's movement for security reasons".
A representative of the Taliban, which entered the capital Kabul earlier on Sunday, said the group was checking on Ghani's whereabouts.
The story has now been confirmed by Al-Jazeera.
We watch in complete shock as Taliban takes control of Afghanistan. I am deeply worried about women, minorities and human rights advocates. Global, regional and local powers must call for an immediate ceasefire, provide urgent humanitarian aid and protect refugees and civilians.— Malala (@Malala) August 15, 2021
'Pakistan is following the situation in Afghanistan'
Pakistan's foreign ministry said in a statement Sunday that the country "is closely following the unfolding situation in Afghanistan."
“Pakistan will continue to support the efforts for political settlement. We hope all Afghan sides will work together to resolve this internal political crisis,” Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri, spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. “The Embassy of Pakistan in Kabul is extending necessary assistance to Pakistanis, Afghan nationals and diplomatic and international community for consular work and coordination of PIA [Pakistan International Airlines] flights.”
Is|amic Law will come to Afghanistan and soon all over the world. We will wait. J!had will go on till the last day: Talban to CNNpic.twitter.com/TlqpNGWkte— Megh Updates 🚨 (@MeghUpdates) August 15, 2021
US unlikely to change military calculus in Afghanistan
The United States is unlikely to change its military strategy in Kabul unless the Taliban impact the evacuation of the embassy, a US official said.
The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that the United States had not yet seen the Taliban enter Kabul in a major way.
Germany sending A400M planes for Kabul evacuation
Germany's army is sending A400M transport aircraft to Kabul with 30 paratroopers each on board to evacuate embassy staff and their Afghan helpers as Taliban fighters surround the Afghan capital, Bild am Sonntag reported.
Taliban wants peaceful transition of power in days
The Taliban expects a peaceful transition of power in the next few days, a spokesman said on Sunday, as the insurgents reached Afghanistan's capital Kabul with little resistance.
Suhail Shaheen added that the militant Islamist group would protect the rights of women, as well as freedoms for media workers and diplomats.
Source: Taliban representatives at Kabul presidential palace
At least 9 representatives of the Taliban’s delegations from Qatar are currently inside the Afghan presidential palace, a source tells CNN.
Among them is Anas Haqqani, brother of the deputy Taliban leader Sirajuddin Haqqani, the source added.
Taliban insurgents entered the Afghanistan capital Kabul, an interior ministry official said. The senior official said the Taliban were coming in ‘from all sides,’ but gave no further details https://t.co/CkbOEYDLXF pic.twitter.com/7zSqomH0aR— Reuters (@Reuters) August 15, 2021
Ghani urges govt forces to maintain Kabul law and order
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani urged government forces Sunday to maintain security in Kabul, after the Taliban paused their sweeping advance on the outskirts of the capital, causing widespread panic.
"It is our responsibility and we will do it in the best possible manner. Anyone who thinks about chaos, plunder or looting will be tackled with force," he said in a video released to media.
'Kabul is surrounded'
The Taliban has said that it has encircled Kabul, in one of its first public statements since news that its fighters were entering the city.
Taliban fighters began entering the city on Sunday after taking control of all of Afghanistan's major cities, apart from the capital, in just 10 days.
A Taliban official said that fighters would not be allowed to conduct celebratory gunfire. He added that members of the Afghan forces would be permitted to return to their homes.
The official was also quoted as saying that the airport and hospitals would be allowed to continue operating and that emergency supplies would not be blocked.
Kabul residents flee capital
People in Kabul have been fleeing the capital as news of the Taliban advance emerges.
Long queues of cars have formed as people try to find a way out of the city. Banks have also been busy as residents try to withdraw their savings.
Afghan MP Farzana Kochai, whom we were speaking to earlier, describes the scene: "I'm in my house and looking at the people who are just trying to run."
She continues:"I don't know where they're trying to go, even in the streets and from their houses, their bags they are carrying... and all these things. It's heartbreaking, you know."
Timeline: Taliban's lightning-speed advance
April: US President Joe Biden announces US troops will pull out of Afghanistan starting in May and ending on September 11, bringing America's longest war to a close
May: The Taliban launch a major offensive on Afghan forces in southern Helmand province, and attack in other provinces
June: The UN envoy to Afghanistan says the Taliban have taken more than 50 of 370 districts. The Taliban launch a series of attacks in the north, far from their traditional strongholds in the south
July 21: The Taliban control about half of the country's districts, according to a senior US general
August 6: The militants capture Zaranj in the south, the first provincial capital to fall to them in a year
August 13: Four more provincial capitals fall in a day, including Kandahar, the country's second city
August 14: The Taliban take the major northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif
August 15: They capture the key eastern city of Jalalabad without a fight, closing in on Kabul
Emergency UN meeting is planned
Russia is working with other countries to hold an emergency UN Security Council meeting on Afghanistan as the Taliban continues its military takeover of the country, foreign ministry official Zamir Kabulov told Russian news agencies.
“We are working on this,” Kabulov said.
'Afghanistan will have a peaceful transfer of power'
Afghan Minister of the Interior Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal says there will be a “peaceful transfer of power” to a transitional government after the Taliban ordered its fighters to hold back from entering Kabul.
“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.
UK PM seeks to recall parliament over Afghanistan crisis
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will seek to recall parliament next week from its summer break over the developing crisis in Afghanistan, domestic media reported on Sunday.
MPs are likely to be called back for urgent debate on what Britain, which lost 457 troops in the two-decade long war, should do next, Downing Street sources told Sky News and the Press Association.
UN: 390,000 Afghan civilians set to be internally displaced
As the fighting across Afghanistan intensifies, the UN has warned that 390,000 could be displaced across the country.
The United Nations Assistance Mission has warned that without a significant de-escalation in violence, Afghanistan is on course to witness the highest ever number of documented civilian casualties in a single year since the UN’s records began.
Source: President Ghani still in Afghanistan
A source close to President Ashraf Ghani has denied reports that he has fled the country, saying the president spent most of the morning in the garden of his residence in the ARG Presidential Palace with the the first lady.