Taliban forces entered Kabul through the city’s four main gates Sunday morning, according to a Washington Post report quoting two Afghan security officials and civilian eyewitness accounts.
Islamist group is poised for a full return to power, two decades after a U.S.-led coalition invaded Afghanistan.
In a sign that the government had collapsed, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, Abdullah Abdullah, the head of the Afghan High Council for National Reconciliation, confirmed in a video shared online.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in a statement that the group’s fighters had been instructed not to push further into the city with force. The militants had made recent gains after negotiating with local leaders. “We want to enter Kabul with peace, and talks are underway” with the government, he said.
Negotiators representing the national government were headed to Doha, Qatar, on Sunday to discuss an agreement with the Taliban’s political leadership, a senior official close to Ghani said. Members of the militant group were also at the presidential palace for talks on Sunday afternoon, according to two Afghan officials
“There is an agreement that there will be a transitional administration for orderly transfer of power,” said the acting interior minister, Abdul Satar Mirzakwal, on Sunday. He added that security forces were being deployed across Kabul to ensure order.
The Taliban’s lightning-quick advance to the Afghan capital came as helicopters landed at the U.S. Embassy early Sunday and armored diplomatic vehicles were seen leaving the area around the compound, the Associated Press reported. Diplomats scrambled to destroy sensitive documents, sending smoke from the embassy’s roof, the AP said, citing anonymous U.S. military officials.
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