Taliban enters Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, on Sunday, according to an interior ministry official, as the US evacuated diplomats from its embassy by helicopter.
A source disclosed that the Taliban entered the city from various sides in spontaneous gunfire. A tweet from the Afghan Presidential Palace account, while there had been reports of gunfire in various locations around Kabul, security forces had taken control of the city in collaboration with international partners.
The United States diplomats were being ferried to the airport from the embassy in the fortified Wazir Akbar Khan district, according to US officials.
As sporadic gunfire echoes in the Afghan capital, the Taliban said in a statement Sunday that they have no plans to take the Afghan capital “by force.”
“No one’s life, property, and dignity will be harmed and the lives of the citizens of Kabul will not be at risk,” the Taliban said.
After the Taliban’s lightning advances brought the Islamist group to Kabul in a matter of days, more American troops were sent to assist in the evacuations.
President Ashraf Ghani, who said on Saturday that he was in urgent consultations with local leaders and international partners on the situation, did not respond immediately.
Earlier on Sunday, the insurgents easily captured the eastern city of Jalalabad, gaining control of one of the main highways into landlocked Afghanistan.
They also took over the nearby Torkham border post with Pakistan, leaving Kabul airport as the only way out of Afghanistan still under government control.
Jalalabad’s capture came on the heels of the Taliban’s capture of the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif late Saturday, also with little fighting.
A video clip distributed by the Taliban showed people cheering and shouting Allahu Akbar – God is greatest – as a convoy of pick-up trucks with fighters brandishing machine guns and the white Taliban flag entered the city.
The recent Taliban advance was marked by the US intention to withdraw its militaries from Afghanistan, marking yet another failed attempt by the US nation-building mission.
In just over a week, the Taliban has defeated, co-opted, or driven Afghan security forces from large swaths of the country,
After US-led forces withdrew the majority of their remaining troops in the previous month, the Taliban campaign accelerated as the Afghan military’s defenses appeared to be crumbling.
Taliban fighters entered Mazar-i-Sharif almost unopposed as security forces fled up the highway to Uzbekistan, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) to the north, according to provincial officials.