Afghanistan: Gunmen stroll into Palace as President flees

Afghanistan: President Biden says there are no parallels with Vietnam

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Militants surrounded capital Kabul from every angle and, after spending hours on the outskirts of the city, met little resistance as the government collapsed. President Ghani said he left the country in order to avoid more bloodshed. He had appeared increasingly isolated before fleeing. Warlords he negotiated with just days earlier have surrendered to the Taliban or fled, leaving him without a military option.

Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation, described him as “a former president”, adding that he had “left the nation in such a situation”.

He said: “God will hold him accountable and the nation will also judge.”

Explosions were heard in the capital last night as groups of armed men led a procession through Kabul. Panic had engulfed the city over the past few days, with the airport jammed with those seeking flights.

Huge queues formed outside banks as Afghan families tried to withdraw their life savings in a bid to escape the country.

Some civilians walked for up to five hours to the airport in a desperate bid to get out.

Shocking video footage last night showed hundreds of people piling on to military planes as gun shots could be heard in the distance.

Hundreds of Taliban and Islamic State terrorists being held prisoner were freed after Bagram air base fell.

In a hugely embarrassing moment for the UK and the US, Taliban fighters appeared to drink tea in state rooms inside the palace before holding a press conference.

Women in Afghanistan fear a return to the “dark days” of being forced into marriages with Taliban fighters, and the people fear a repressive regime characterised
by brutality.

Afghan army soldiers have been executed by militants in many of the provincial capitals routed by the Taliban, who have been aided by al-Qaeda terrorists. An Afghan official earlier confirmed the city of Jalalabad also fell under Taliban control without a fight early yesterday when the governor surrendered, saying it was “the only way to save civilian lives”.

That came just days after the fall of Kandahar and Laskhar Gar – where British troops predominantly fought.

The US Embassy in Kabul had ordered American citizens to take shelter as the airport came under attack. All commercial flights out of Kabul’s airport were suspended, according to a Nato official, with only military aircraft allowed to operate there.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said: “We assure all embassies, diplomatic centres, institutions and places that foreign nationals in Kabul will not be in danger”.

The Taliban bosses had ordered fighters to refrain from violence while talks were held in the Qatari capital of Doha. Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen added: “We assure the people in Afghanistan, particularly in Kabul, that their properties, their lives, are safe. There will be no revenge on anyone.

“We are the servants of the people and of this country. Our leadership have instructed our forces to remain at the gate of Kabul – not to enter the city. We are awaiting a peaceful transfer of power.”

But terrified Afghans fled for the borders, fearing a return to public executions, amputations and stonings, it was said.

The desperately poor – who had left homes in the countryside for the presumed safety of the capital – remained in their thousands in parks and open spaces throughout the city.

The Taliban seized nearly all of Afghanistan in just over a week, despite the billions of dollars spent by the US and Nato over nearly two decades to build up Afghan security forces. Militants surrounded Kabul early yesterday, vowing not to kill any civilians.

But Taliban leaders demanded power was handed over to them in a “peaceful transfer”.

Gunfights broke out in the capital, at first sporadic and then later slightly more sustained on the streets. Small groups of armed men could be seen in some of the suburbs, especially on roads coming in from Logar province.

Foreigners in Kabul were told they should either leave or register their presence with Taliban administrators. RAF planes were scrambled to evacuate 6,000 British diplomats, citizens and Afghan translators.

The US Embassy in the capital suspended all operations and told Americans to shelter, saying it had received reports of gunfire at the international airport. Thousands fled to the border with Pakistan, while many thousands more are expected to attempt the perilous crossing into Iran and Turkey and towards Europe.

Afghan MP Farzana Kochai said: “Some people are running. Others are hiding in their houses.

“We heard some gunfire around Kabul. Some districts have already fallen into Taliban hands.

“I’m in my house and looking at the people who are just trying to run.

She added: “I don’t know where they’re trying to go, even in the streets and from their houses. It’s heartbreaking, you know.”

Female student Afshaneh Ansari said: “I am 20 years old, I was born the year the Taliban rule ended.

“The life I wanted so much and tried so hard for will end today, 20 years later.”

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