The Taliban entered Kabul on Sunday and they cried “victory” from the government palace, hours after the president of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani he fled abroad in the dramatic epilogue of 20 years of foreign military intervention and a three-month insurgent blitzkrieg offensive.
“The Taliban won”Ghani declared on Facebook, assuring that he left the country to avoid a “bloodbath”, since “innumerable patriots would have been martyred and Kabul destroyed” if he had stayed.
“Military units from the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan entered the city of Kabul to ensure security,” insurgent spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted. “His progress continues normally “he added.
In the evening, Afghan television broadcast images of Afghan fighters inside the palace and crying out “victory”.
“Our country has been liberated and the mujahideen are victorious in Afghanistan, “a militant told the Al Jazeera news channel from the presidential palace.
As previously indicated by three senior Taliban officials to AFP, a meeting was held in the palace on the security situation in the capital.
As the day progressed, panic seized the capital. Stores closed and huge traffic jams formed, and thousands of police and other members of the security forces left their posts and their uniforms.
In most banks it was possible to see a large crowd, with people looking to withdraw their money while there was time left.
Videos were posted on social media showing groups of heavily armed Taliban fighters patrolling the big cities, with white flags and greeting the population.
In the Taimani neighborhood, in the center of the capital, fear, uncertainty and misunderstanding were visible on the faces of many.
“We note the return of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and we hope your arrival brings peace and not a bloodbath. I remember, when I was a child, the atrocities committed by the Taliban, “Tariq Nezami, a 30-year-old businessman, told AFP.
In 10 days, the radical Islamist movement, which had started an offensive in May taking advantage of the start of the withdrawal of US and foreign troops, took control of almost the entire country.
Now, the insurgents are at the gates of power, twenty years after being expelled by a coalition led by Washington, following its refusal to hand over Osama bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda, after the September 11 attacks in the United States.
The defeat is total for both the government as well as for the Afghan security forces, to which the United States it has been financing for twenty years with tens of billions of dollars.
Shortly before the Taliban’s announcement, former Vice President Abdullah Abdullah was the first to announce that Ghani had “left” his country, after seven years in power, without specifying where he had gone.
Ghani also did not specify where he is, but according to the Afghan channel Tolo News, he would be in Tajikistan.
That Ghani leave office was one of the key requests of the Taliban in the peace talks with the Afghan government, although the president he had chosen to hold onto the post until now.
An insurgent spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, told the BBC that they hoped to have a peaceful transfer of power “in the next few days.” The Taliban also promised that they were not seeking revenge on anyone, not even the military or officials who worked for the current government.
For his part, the Minister of the Interior, Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal, assured that it would be carried out a “peaceful transfer of power” to a transitional government.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that the evacuation of US diplomats and Afghan civilians who in the past cooperated with the United States and who may fear for their lives have begun. The operation involves some 30,000 people and 5,000 American soldiers were deployed to the Kabul airport for it.
The United States embassy, for its part, indicated that it had “information about shooting at the airport”, although these could not be confirmed.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance was helping to ensure the security and operation of the airport, where Westerners and Afghans flow to flee the country.
US President Joe Biden, defended his decision to end 20 years of war, the longest the United States has ever known.
“I am the fourth president ruling with a US military presence in Afghanistan […] I do not want and will not, transmit this war to a fifth, “he declared on Sunday.
“This is not Saigon“For his part, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CNN, alluding to the fall of the Vietnamese capital in 1975, a still painful memory for the United States.
Faced with this situation, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged Westerners to adopt “a common position” against the Taliban “to prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming fertile ground for terrorism.
The Taliban imposed a strict version of Islam when they ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.
Women couldn’t work or go out without being accompanied by a man, and young women and girls were forbidden to go to schools. Thieves had their hands cut off, murderers were publicly executed, and homosexuals were killed.
Today, they try to give a more moderate image and they promised that if they returned to power they would respect human rights, especially those of women, albeit in accordance with “Islamic values.”