Taliban at door of Afghan capital after eastern city falls, US starts evacuating embassy

  August 15, 2021   News ID 3613
Taliban at door of Afghan capital after eastern city falls, US starts evacuating embassy
Taliban insurgents captured the key eastern Afghanistan city of Jalalabad without a fight on Sunday, leaving the territory controlled by the crumbling government to little more than the capital Kabul.

Kabul, SAEDNEWS: The United States started evacuating its diplomats and was sending more troops to help secure Kabul airport and the embassy after the Taliban's lightning advances brought the Islamist group to the door of the capital in a matter of days.

Just last week, a U.S. intelligence estimate said Kabul could hold out for at least three months.

"We have a small batch of people leaving now as we speak, a majority of the staff are ready to leave," a U.S. official told Reuters on Sunday. "The embassy continues to function."

The fall of Jalalabad gives the insurgents control of a road leading to the Pakistan city of Peshawar, one of the main highways into landlocked Afghanistan.

It followed the Taliban's seizure of the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif late on Saturday, also with little fighting.

"There are no clashes taking place right now in Jalalabad because the governor has surrendered to the Taliban," a Jalalabad-based Afghan official told Reuters. "Allowing passage to the Taliban was the only way to save civilian lives."

A second security official in the city said the Taliban had agreed to give safe passage to government officials and security forces while they leave Jalalabad. The decision to surrender was taken to avoid "casualties and destruction", the official said.

After U.S.-led forces withdrew the bulk of the their remaining troops in the last month, the Taliban campaign accelerated as the Afghan military's defences appeared to collapse.

President Joe Biden on Saturday authorised the deployment of 5,000 U.S. troops to help evacuate citizens and ensure an "orderly and safe" drawdown of military personnel. A U.S. defence official said that included 1,000 newly approved troops from the 82nd Airborne Division.

Taliban fighters entered Mazar-i-Sharif virtually unopposed as security forces escaped up the highway to Uzbekistan, about 80 km (50 miles) to the north, provincial officials said. Unverified video on social media showed Afghan army vehicles and men in uniforms crowding the iron bridge between the Afghan town of Hairatan and Uzbekistan.

Two influential militia leaders supporting the government - Atta Mohammad Noor and Abdul Rashid Dostum - also fled. Noor said on social media that the Taliban had been handed control of Balkh province, where Mazar-i-Sharif is located, due to a "conspiracy." read more

POPULARLY ACCEPTED

In a statement late on Saturday, the Taliban said its rapid gains showed it was popularly accepted by the Afghan people and reassured both Afghans and foreigners that they would be safe.

The Islamic Emirate, as the Taliban calls itself, "will, as always, protect their life, property and honour, and create a peaceful and secure environment for its beloved nation," it said, adding that diplomats and aid workers would also face no problems (Source: Reuters).