Taliban fighters entered Afghanistan’s Presidential Palace hours after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country on Sunday, a milestone in the insurgent group’s assumption of control over capital city Kabul. One unit shared pictures of the palace interior – intact, but empty and apparently abandoned by Afghan officials – on an official Telegram account.
The Taliban had been in talks with Afghanistan’s government over who would rule the nation, following the militant group’s strikingly rapid advance across the country, in which it seized power over dozens of key cities, often with little to no resistance. But those talks are likely to have been upended by the sudden departure of President Ghani.
With so much territory now in hand, the Taliban appears to have little reason to compromise. In an apparent “handover” ceremony, the Taliban claimed the palace with three Afghan government officials present, according to Al Jazeera, which carried the appearance live. One Taliban security official said there was a “peaceful handover of government facilities ongoing across the country.” Another spoke briefly in English to say that he had formerly been held by the US in Guantanamo, a claim that CNN cannot independently verify.
Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid has also said that Taliban forces would begin entering areas of the city where government officials and security forces had abandoned their posts, to impose order.
“This morning the Islamic Emirate released a statement that our forces were outside Kabul city and we did not want to enter Kabul through military ways,” he said. “However, now we are getting reports that the district police offices are evacuated, police has left their job of ensuring the security, also the ministries are emptied and the security personnel of the Kabul administration has fled.”
The Taliban’s decisive takeover of the country and the US’ drawdown of its forces is a bitter end to nearly two decades of war that cost many lives, resources and little progress in state building.
The US’ withdrawal from the country opened a clear path for the Taliban to take on and defeat the Afghan security forces. Many major cities fell with little to no resistance, including the key city of Jalalabad, which the Taliban seized on Sunday.
The country is now facing the Taliban’s return to power, which, if it’s anything like it was in the 1990s, would mean a deterioration in civil liberties, particularly for women and girls whose freedoms grew under the civilian government.
In a Facebook post following his departure fr