KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – AUGUST 16: Panicked Afghans flocked to airport on Monday (Aug. 16) after Taliban took over the capital Kabul.
The Taliban took control of the presidential palace in Kabul on Sunday, according to the group’s spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid.
This came following an eventful day which saw minute-to-minute developments, including the Taliban’s entering the besieged capital and the departure of embattled President Ashraf Ghani along with his close aides.
Ghani, who was dubbed “the former president” by the head of Afghanistan’s National Reconciliation Council, Abdullah Abdullah, in a video message, left the country.
“He [Ghani] left Afghanistan in a hard time. God holds him accountable,” Abdullah said in the message in the Persian language.
Following the departure of Ghani, former President Hamid Karzai, veteran politician Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and top peace negotiator Abdullah formed a council with the aim of ensuring a smooth transfer of power.
Defending his decision, Ghani said in a message that he had left Kabul in order to avoid bloodshed.
Mujahid said the Taliban will not accept any transitional setup. Instead, he added, the group wants an immediate transition of power.
A delegation of the Taliban’s military commission is present at the presidential palace to negotiate the transfer of power, he told ABC News.
The Taliban’s consultative council has already announced a general amnesty for Afghan forces and government officials in the case of unconditional surrender.
US forces’ helicopters meanwhile were seen conducting back and forth flights between the American Embassy and Kabul airport to evacuate US diplomats.
“Kabul looks like a ghost city as I speak. All shops, markets and restaurants are closed. Roads and streets wear a deserted look,” Anis Khan, a Kabul-based journalist, told local broadcaster Geo News.
“The city is in the grip of fear and confusion,” Khan added.
The US later announced that it had completed the evacuation Sunday night of all
remaining personnel from its embassy in Kabul as the Taliban laid claim to the Afghan capital.
“We can confirm that the safe evacuation of all Embassy personnel is now complete,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement. “All Embassy personnel are located on the premises of Hamid Karzai International Airport, whose perimeter is secured by the U.S. Military.”