The Taliban have entered Kabul and taken over the presidential palace, marking the completion of a remarkable turnaround that has seen Islamic insurgents regain control of Afghanistan in just over one week.
Taliban fighters took control of the majority of the city overnight, encountering no resistance as they returned to the position of power they were ousted from two decades previously.
In embarrassing scenes for the Biden administration, the US military had to send helicopters to the embassy in Kabul to evacuate its staff. Residents reported smoke billowing from the chimney of the embassy building as staff scrambled to destroy sensitive documents. Over 2,400 U.S. troops have been killed in the duration of operations in Afghanistan.
Afghan president Ashraf Ghani has fled to neighboring Tajikistan, according to reports. The president’s office refused to confirm or deny the reports, citing security reasons.
The Taliban are expected to announce the resurrection of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the official name of the country when it was previously under their rule. The country is expected to return to hardline Islamist rule akin to the situation prior to the Taliban’s 2001 ousting. The Taliban has promised not to take reprisals against those that worked for or with the previous government, but most onlookers remain skeptical.
Kabul airport was the scene of chaos as both Afghans and foreign citizens crowded the terminal desperately hoping to get a seat on a flight out of the country. The US and UK have sent troops to help secure the airport, whilst the US also announced it was temporarily moving its embassy operations to the airport compound.
The rapid collapse of President Ghani’s pro-western government follows the decision by Joe Biden in May to withdraw US troops after 20 years of operations in the country. Attempts by the Taliban to regain control were expected, but intelligence experts say these attempts were expected to be unsuccessful and the Biden administration had faith in the Afghan forces to maintain control of the country.