Taliban entering Kabul ‘from all sides’

Taliban insurgents have entered the Afghanistan capital, Kabul, an interior ministry official said.

The senior official told Reuters the Taliban were coming in “from all sides” but gave no further details.

A tweet from the Afghan presidential palace account said firing had been heard at a number of points around Kabul but that security forces, in co-ordination with international partners, had control of the city.

The United States evacuated diplomats from its embassy by helicopter, and officials said more troops were being sent to help in the evacuations after the Taliban’s lightning advances brought the Islamist group to Kabul in a matter of days.

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

“Core” US team members were working from the Kabul airport, a US official said, while a Nato official said several European Union staff had moved to a safer, undisclosed location in the capital.

A Taliban official told Reuters the group did not want any casualties as it took charge but had not declared a ceasefire.

There was no immediate word on the situation from president Ashraf Ghani, who said on Saturday he was in urgent consultations with local leaders and international partners on the situation.

Earlier on Sunday, the insurgents captured the eastern city of Jalalabad without a fight, giving them control of one of the main highways into landlocked Afghanistan. They also took over the nearby Torkham border post with Pakistan, leaving Kabul airport the only way out of Afghanistan that is still in government hands.

The capture of Jalalabad 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 video clip distributed by the Taliban showed people cheering and shout Allahu Akbar – God is greatest – as a convoy of pick-up trucks entered the city with fighters brandishing machine guns and the white Taliban flag.

After US-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.

US president Joe Biden on Saturday authorised the deployment of 5,000 troops to help evacuate citizens and ensure an “orderly and safe” drawdown of military personnel. A US 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 80km 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.

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.

Afghans have fled the provinces to enter Kabul in recent days, fearing a return to hardline Islamist rule.

Early on Sunday, refugees from Taliban-controlled provinces were seen unloading belongings from taxis and families stood outside embassy gates, while the city’s downtown was packed with people stocking up on supplies.

Hundreds of people slept huddled in tents or in the open in the city, by roadsides or in car parks, a resident said on Saturday night. “You can see the fear in their faces,” he said.

Mr Biden said his administration had told Taliban officials in talks in Qatar that any action that put US personnel at risk “will be met with a swift and strong US military response.”

He has faced rising domestic criticism as the Taliban have taken city after city far more quickly than predicted. The president has stuck to a plan, initiated by his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, to end the US military mission in Afghanistan by August 31st.

Mr Biden said it is up to the Afghan military to hold its own territory. “An endless American presence in the middle of another country’s civil conflict was not acceptable to me,” Mr Biden said on Saturday.

Qatar, which has been hosting so-far inconclusive peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, said it had urged the insurgents to cease fire. Mr Ghani has given no sign of responding to a Taliban demand that he resign as a condition for any ceasefire. – Reuters

The Irish Times

The Irish Times online. Latest news including sport, analysis, business, weather and more from the definitive brand of quality news in Ireland.

https://www.irishtimes.com/

Taiwan Receives 160,000 Doses of AstraZeneca Vaccine from Slovakia.

Taiwan Receives 160,000 Doses of AstraZeneca Vaccine from Slovakia.

A plane carrying 160,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine from Slovakia arrived at Taoyuan International Airport in Taiwan on Sunday, September 26. ––––––––– READ MORE: The shipment was donated by the Slovakian government as a gesture of ...

More Than 12,000 Migrants Remain In The U.S.

More Than 12,000 Migrants Remain In The U.S.

The makeshift migrant camp under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas is no more. More than 12,000 migrants, mostly Haitian, remain in the U.S. seeking asylum.» Subscribe to NBC News: » Watch more NBC video: NBC News Digital is a collection of innovative an...

Pfizer Booster Vaccines Rolled Out in U.S.

Pfizer Booster Vaccines Rolled Out in U.S.

People across the country got their Pfizer booster shots this weekend. Doctors in the U.S. say there’s not enough data to support mixing vaccines. Health officials encourage booster shots for those eligible.» Subscribe to NBC News: » Watch more NB...

New York School Vaccine Mandate Temporarily Blocked.

New York School Vaccine Mandate Temporarily Blocked.

Hours before a vaccine mandate was set to go into effect for teachers in New York, a federal judge temporarily blocked its enforcement. Nearly 150,000 school employees would have needed their first vaccination dose by Monday.» Subscribe to NBC New...

Three Killed, Dozens Injured in Amtrak Train Derailment.

Three Killed, Dozens Injured in Amtrak Train Derailment.

An Amtrak train with 141 people and 16 crew members derailed near Joplin, Montana. Three died in the incident, and dozens more were injured. Federal investigators are on scene to determine what went wrong. » Subscribe to NBC News: » Watch more NBC...

Battles grow over vaccine mandates

Battles grow over vaccine mandates

Nearly 1,600 people die from the virus every day. WATCH THE FULL EPISODE OF 'WORLD NEWS TONIGHT': WATCH OTHER FULL EPISODES OF WORLD NEWS TONIGHT: WATCH WORLD NEWS TONIGHT ON HULU: #WorldNewsTonight #Vaccines #Boosters #COVID-19