After President Ashraf Ghani fled the country on Monday, the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan and acknowledged that the insurgents had won a 20-year war.
On Sunday night, militants stormed the presidential palace, surprisingly quickly overthrowing the government, and spreading panic in the capital.
On Monday, thousands of people were trying to flee Kabul and the Taliban’s terrifying hardline brand of Islamic rule, with scenes of chaos as crowds gathered at the airport.
Ghani fled on Sunday when insurgents besieged Kabul, sealing a nationwide military victory that brought the entire city under his control in just 10 days.
Ghani said in a statement posted on Facebook that the Taliban had won with their swords and guns and were now responsible for the dignity, property and self-protection of their compatriots.
In a video posted on social media, Taliban co-founder Abdul Ghani Baradar also announced the victory of his movement.
“Now is the time to test and prove. Now we have to show that we can serve our nation and ensure the safety and security of life,” he said.
Government forces collapsed without the cooperation of the US military, which attacked after the September 11, 2001 attacks and overthrew the Taliban in support of al-Qaeda.
Despite spending billions of dollars and providing two decades of military assistance, the United States has ultimately failed to build a democratic government capable of tolerating the Taliban.
President Joe Biden was determined to withdraw all US troops by the end of this month, insisting that there was no choice and that he would not hand over the war to another president.
But the rapid collapse of the Afghan government took the US administration by surprise.
Despite insisting that there would be no Saigon-style frightened evacuation from Kabul, US officials, their Afghan allies and other Taliban-frightened residents were all trying to flee on Monday.
The United States sent 6,000 troops to the airport to evacuate Afghans, as well as embassy personnel, who assisted the United States as spokesmen or in other supporting roles.
However, the US government acknowledged that it was not in control of the airport.
The Pentagon and the State Department said in a joint statement that “we are completing a series of measures to secure the Hamid Karzai International Airport to allow the safe departure of US and allied personnel.”
The United States has since issued a statement to more than 65 countries urging the Taliban to allow Afghans to leave the country, warning of accountability for any abuses.
“The United States reaffirms with the international community that Afghan and international citizens who wish to leave should be allowed to do so,” Secretary of State Anthony Blinken wrote on Twitter.
“Those in positions of power and authority throughout Afghanistan have a responsibility – and a responsibility – to protect human life.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on the Taliban and all parties to exercise restraint and said the rights of women and girls, which were affected during the previous Taliban regime, should be protected.
The United Nations also said the Security Council would meet on Monday in Afghanistan.
On Sunday, Ghani’s government was left completely alone after taking control of the anti-Taliban northern stronghold of Mazar-e-Sharif and the eastern city of Jalalabad.
Like other occupied cities, power was seized after government forces surrendered or retreated.
They then surrounded the capital.
Thousands of police and other government security forces abruptly abandoned their posts, uniforms and even weapons on Sunday night.
After initially ordering the militants not to enter the capital, a Taliban spokesman confirmed that they had entered Kabul on Sunday night to “ensure security”.
Three senior Taliban sources told AFP that their fighters had taken control of the presidential palace and were holding a security meeting in the capital.
For the tens of thousands who have sought refuge in Kabul in recent weeks, the mood has been one of fear and dread.
“I’m worried there will be a lot of fighting here,” a doctor who arrived from Kunduz with his 35 strong families told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“I’d like to go back home, where I know it’s stopped.”
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