Taliban fighters are assuming control of the Afghan capital of Kabul and have taken control of the presidential palace, after the country's president Ashraf Ghani fled to Tajikistan.
One of its units shared pictures of the Palace interior – seemingly intact, but empty and abandoned by Afghan officials – on an official Telegram account. A video posted on social media a few hours before showed fighters arriving at the Presidential Palace in Kabul
The group’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said earlier that its forces would begin entering areas of the city where the government officials and security forces had abandoned their posts.
“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.”
“Therefore, in order to avoid any looting and burglary in Kabul and stop opportunists from harming the people, the Islamic Emirate has advised its forces to enter those areas of the city where the enemy has left and the areas are at risk of looting and burglary,” he added.
Social media posts and witness accounts suggest Taliban presence within the city is growing.
“Our forces are quietly entering the city, they won’t bother anyone, government employees both civilian and military should be assured that no one will harm them, no Mujahid is allowed to enter people’s houses, or hurt or bother anyone,” the groups spokesperson added.
The Taliban takeover happens amid a massive evacuation effort by the US and NATO allies of their citizens and support staff within the country.
Earlier reports suggested a transitional government would be formed but the departure of President Ghani seems to have scuppered those efforts.
A meeting, which was expected to happen between a high-level Afghan government delegation and Taliban in Doha, now “may not happen,” a source with knowledge of the intra-Afghan talks told CNN on Sunday.
Regardless, the Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, Abdullah Abdullah, politician Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and former President Hamid Karzai have established a Coordinating Council to “better manage the affairs related to peace and peaceful transfer,” Karzai said in a statement.