Taliban surround Kabul, government promises “peaceful transfer of power”

They only have Kabul left to conquer. While the Taliban say they do not intend to take the Afghan capital by force, ordering fighters to stay at its gates, the Afghan interior ministry for its part declared, Sunday, August 15 in the morning, that some insurgents were already present. The Taliban have told fighters to avoid violence in Kabul, to let people who want to leave pass and to ask women to move to safe places, according to one of their officials in Doha, as quoted by the Reuters news agency. .

“Afghans should not worry (…) There will be no attack on the city [de Kaboul]. And there will be a peaceful transfer of power to a transitional government ”Afghan Interior Minister Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal said on Sunday. “Don’t panic, Kabul is safe”, also tried to reassure on Twitter Matin Bek, the chief of staff of the president, Ashraf Ghani.

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The Taliban also took control on Sunday of the last border post still in the hands of the Afghan government: that of Torkham, on the border with Pakistan, Pakistani Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said on Sunday. This means that the insurgents now have control over all of Afghanistan’s borders, making Kabul airport the country’s last exit.

A few hours earlier, they had seized without resistance the city of Jalalabad (east), after having taken Mazar-e Charif, the fourth largest Afghan city and the main urban center in the north of the country. In barely ten days, the Taliban, who launched their offensive in May, with the start of the final withdrawal of American and foreign troops, therefore took control of the vast majority of the country and reached the gates of Kabul, completely surrounded.

Total rout for the army

People leaving Kabul through the airport, August 14, 2021.

A handful of minor towns are still under government control, but, dispersed and cut off from the capital, no longer have great strategic value. The rout is total for the government of President Ashraf Ghani and for the Afghan security forces, yet funded for twenty years by the United States.

Faced with the meteoric advance of the Taliban, dozens of Afghan soldiers took refuge in neighboring Uzbekistan, authorities in Tashkent announced in a statement on Sunday. In July, a thousand Afghan soldiers had already crossed the border into Tajikistan after fighting with the Taliban. Uzbek troops on the border between the two countries arrested 84 Afghan soldiers and discussions have been initiated with the Afghan authorities to organize their return to their country, the Uzbek foreign ministry said.

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Saturday, the head of state had said to “Remobilization [des] security and defense forces’ the “Priority number one”. But his message hardly seems to have been heard. Ashraf Ghani finds himself with no other option but to have to choose between capitulating and resigning, or continuing the fight to save Kabul, at the risk of being responsible for a bloodbath.

However, he added on Saturday that “Consultations” were in the process of finding a “Political solution” guaranteeing peace and stability. In the evening, the presidential palace clarified that a delegation would be “Soon to be formed by the government and ready to negotiate”.

Evacuation of foreign diplomats

A US Army helicopter over Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday August 15, 2021.

Faced with the collapse of the Afghan army, US President Joe Biden increased the military deployment at Kabul airport to 5,000 troops to evacuate American diplomats and Afghan civilians who cooperated with the United States and who fear for their lives. The Pentagon estimates the number of people to be evacuated at 30,000.

As the day before, the American helicopters continued on Sunday their incessant rotations between the airport and the American embassy, ​​a gigantic complex located in the “green zone”, ultra-fortified, in the center of the capital. President of the United States threatened the Taliban with a response “Fast and strong” in the event of an attack that would endanger American nationals during the evacuation operation.

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But he also defended his decision to end twenty years of war, the longest in America, launched in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001, to overthrow the Taliban because of their refusal to deliver the war. Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. “A year or five more years of American military presence would have made no difference, when the Afghan army cannot or does not want to defend its own country”, he said.

The US Embassy has ordered its staff to destroy sensitive documents and US symbols that could be used by the Taliban “For propaganda purposes”.

London at the same time announced the redeployment of 600 soldiers to help British nationals to leave. Several Western countries will reduce their presence to the strict minimum, or even temporarily close their embassies. Russia, on the other hand, does not plan to evacuate its embassy in Kabul, a Russian foreign ministry official told Interfax news agency on Sunday. Moscow also says it is working for the holding of an urgent meeting of the United Nations Security Council.

The Taliban, who are careful to display a more moderate image than when they ruled the country between 1996 and 2001, have repeatedly pledged that if they returned to power they would respect human rights, especially those of women, in accord. with the “Islamic values”. They also promised that they would not seek revenge on anyone, including soldiers or officials who served for the current government. But, in the newly conquered areas, they have already been accused of numerous abuses: murder of civilians, beheadings, kidnapping of teenage girls to marry them by force, in particular.

The World with AP