Afghanistan’s embattled President Ashraf Ghani fled the country on Sunday as the Taliban moved further into Kabul, officials said.
Ghani flew out of the country, two officials told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity as they weren’t authorised to brief journalists. Abdullah Abdullah, the head of the Afghan National Reconciliation Council, later confirmed Ghani had left in an online video.
“He left Afghanistan in a hard time, God hold him accountable,” Abdullah said.
Major developments today
Ashraf Ghani flees Afghanistan
Taliban say they will not take Kabul “by force”
Taliban negotiators head to presidential palace to discuss transfer of power
Taliban spokesperson says they are seeking an unconditional surrender from the govt
Helicopters begin landing on US Embassy for evacuation
Taliban seize Jalalabad
Senior interior ministry official as saying that Ghani "has left the capital Kabul for Tajikistan". It is unclear whether Ghani has resigned from the post of president.
Asked for comment, the president's office said it “cannot say anything about Ashraf Ghani's movement for security reasons”. A representative of the Taliban said the group was checking on Ghani's whereabouts.
In a video posted on Facebook, Abdullah, speaking in Persian, appealed to the Afghan security forces to do their part to maintain peace in the country. He also appealed to the Taliban to not harm anyone or cause disharmony in Kabul. He said Ghani had left the country in troubling times, for which he will be remembered in history.
Ghani's countrymen and foreigners alike also raced for the exit, signalling the end of a 20-year Western experiment aimed at remaking Afghanistan.
After entering Kabul earlier today, Taliban fighters sought the unconditional surrender of the central government.
The beleaguered government, meanwhile, hoped for an interim administration, but increasingly had few cards to play. Civilians fearing that the Taliban could reimpose the kind of brutal rule that all but eliminated women’s rights rushed to leave the country, lining up at cash machines to withdraw their life savings.
The Taliban ordered their fighters to enter Kabul to prevent looting after local police deserted their posts, a spokesman for the militant group, Zabihullah Mujahid, said in a statement.
In a nationwide offensive that has taken just over a week, the Taliban have defeated, co-opted or sent Afghan security forces fleeing from wide swaths of the country, even though they had some air support from the US military.
The lightning speed of the push has shocked many and raised questions about why Afghan forces crumbled despite years of US training and billions of dollars spent. Just days ago, an American military assessment estimated it would be a month before the capital would come under insurgent pressure.