An Interior Ministry official said that Taliban fighters have entered the Afghan capital, Kabul.
The senior official told Reuters the Taliban were coming “from all sides” but gave no further details.
A tweet from the Afghan presidential palace account said that shooting was heard at a number of points around Kabul but that security forces, in coordination with international partners, took control of the city.
A Taliban official said the movement did not want casualties while in charge, but had not declared a ceasefire.
There was no immediate news on the situation from President Ashraf Ghani, who said on Saturday that he was urgently consulting with local leaders and international partners on the situation.
The United States evacuated diplomats from its embassy by helicopter, and officials said more troops were sent to help with the evacuations after the Taliban’s rapid advance brought the Islamist group to Kabul within days. Just last week, a US intelligence estimate reported that Kabul could hold out for at least three months.
A US official said members of the “core” US team were operating from Kabul airport, while a NATO official said many EU employees had moved to a safer, undisclosed location in the capital.
Earlier on Sunday, the rebels captured the eastern city of Jalalabad without a fight, giving them control of one of the main highways to landlocked Afghanistan. They also captured the nearby Torkham border post with Pakistan, leaving the Kabul airport the only way out of Afghanistan still in government hands.
The arrest of Jalalabad came on the heels of the Taliban’s capture of the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif late on Saturday, without a light fight either.
“There are no clashes at the moment in Jalalabad because the governor surrendered to the Taliban,” an Afghan official based in Jalalabad told Reuters. Allowing the Taliban to pass was the only way to save civilian lives.
A video distributed by the Taliban showed people chanting and shouting God is Great – God is Great – as a convoy of pickup trucks entered the city with fighters waving machine guns and a white Taliban flag.
After US-led forces withdrew the bulk of their remaining forces last month, the Taliban’s campaign accelerated as the Afghan army’s defenses appeared to collapse.
US President Joe Biden on Saturday authorized the deployment of 5,000 troops to help evacuate citizens and ensure an “orderly and safe” withdrawal of military personnel.
Provincial officials said Taliban fighters entered Mazar-i-Sharif almost unopposed as security forces fled via the highway to Uzbekistan, about 80 kilometers to the north. An unverified video posted on social media showed Afghan army vehicles and men in uniforms massing on the iron bridge between the Afghan town of Heratan and Uzbekistan.
The Taliban said in a statement late on Saturday that their rapid gains showed they were popular with the Afghan people and assured Afghans and foreigners alike that they would be safe.
She said that the Islamic Emirate, as the Taliban calls itself, “will, as always, protect their lives, property and honor, and create a peaceful and secure environment for its beloved nation,” adding that diplomats and aid workers will not face any confrontation. problems.
Afghans have fled the provinces to enter Kabul in recent days, fearing the return of hard-line Islamic rule.
Refugees from Taliban-controlled provinces were seen early on Sunday unloading belongings from taxis and families stood outside the gates of embassies as the city center was crowded with people stocking up on supplies.
On Saturday evening, one resident said hundreds of people were sleeping in tents or in the open in the city, on roadsides or in parking lots. “You can see the fear in their faces,” he said.
Biden said his administration told Taliban officials in talks in Qatar that any action that endangers US personnel “will be met with a swift and strong US military response.”
He faced growing domestic criticism as the Taliban seized city after city more quickly than expected. The president has stuck to a plan launched by his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, to end the US military mission in Afghanistan by August 31.
Biden said it was up to the Afghan army to hold its ground. “The endless American presence in the midst of another nation’s civil conflict was not unacceptable to me,” Biden said on Saturday.
Qatar, which has so far hosted inconclusive peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, said it had urged the rebels to cease fire. Ghani showed no sign of responding to the Taliban’s demand that he resign as a condition of a ceasefire. – Reuters
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