Taliban reach Kabul’s surrounding areas, say they do not want to enter city via force

Taliban fighters arrived at the gate of Kabul city Sunday afternoon, a few hours after capturing Jalalabad.

European Union embassy staffers and envoys have been shifted to an undisclosed, safe location, said NATO authorities.

A US official confirmed that an estimated 50 employees of the US embassy are present in Kabul, as the Taliban close in on the capital city.

“We do not want to kill innocent, isolated Afghan citizens,” said a Taliban spokesperson, speaking to a foreign news agency. “We have not announced any ceasefire,” he added.

The Taliban announced that they did not intend on entering the city through force or by using coercive means.

Ex-Afghan ambassador Ali Ahmed Jalali to head interim govt in Afghanistan

Former Afghan ambassador to Germany, Ali Ahmad Jalali, has been appointed as the head of the new interim government in Afghanistan, Afghan media reported Sunday.

Negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government are taking place inside the ARG Presidential Palace in Kabul, as Taliban fighters wait at Kabul’s gates for further instructions, Afghan media stated.

Abdullah Abdullah, the head of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation, is acting as the arbitrator in the negotiations.

Taliban’s Abdul Ghani Baradar arrives in Kabul

Meanwhile, Afghanistan interior ministry reports state that Taliban co-founder Abdul Ghani Baradar has reached Afghanistan from Doha.

Baradar was leading negotiations of a Taliban delegation with envoys of various governments in Doha.

‘Kabul won’t be attacked’, says Afghan interior minister

Afghan journalist Bilal Sarwary tweeted a video clip of Afghanistan’s Interior Minister General Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal, who said that agreements for a “transitional government” have been reached.

“Afghan forces including police and special forces instructed to keep law and order in Kabul,” he tweeted.

Taliban fighters enter outskirts of Kabul

Taliban fighters have arrived at Kabul’s surrounding areas but have not yet entered the city, confirmed Afghanistan authorities Sunday.

The Taliban, however, announced that they did not intend to take the city via force.

“Negotiations are under way to ensure that the transition process is completed safely and securely, without compromising the lives, property and honour of anyone, and without compromising the lives of Kabulis,” it said.

Taliban free prisoners 

Shortly after arriving in Kabul, the Taliban freed hundreds of prisoners from Afghanistan’s largest prison, the Pul-e-Charkhi in Kabul.

Tajuden Soroush, a correspondent of Iran International, tweeted a video clip in which hundreds of prisoners can be seen walking away from the prison.

No plan to vacate  embassy in Kabul: Russia

Russia does not plan to evacuate its embassy in Kabul as Taliban fighters reached the outskirts of the Afghan capital in their blistering military takeover of the country, foreign ministry official Zamir Kabulov told the Interfax news agency.

Kabulov said he is “in direct contact” with Moscow´s ambassador in Kabul and that Russian embassy employees continue to work “calmly” and “no evacuation is planned”.

Pakistan embassy in Kabul remains open 

As the Taliban stand ready for orders to take over the city, the Pakistan embassy continues to perform services for Pakistanis, Afghans and nationals of other countries, in Kabul.

Pakistan’s Ambassador to Afghanistan, Mansoor Ahmad Khan, took to Twitter to appreciate the embassy staff for caryying out their duties despite the dangerous security situation.

“I deeply appreciate Pakistan Embassy Kabul’s officers and officials for rendering valuable services to help Pakistanis, Afghan nationals and citizens of other countries in this risky and serious security situation. Bravo my team,” he tweeted.

 Jalalabad falls to Taliban

Reuters adds: The Taliban closed in on Kabul Sunday, with the insurgents taking over the eastern city of Jalalabad without a fight, as US forces arrived in the country to evacuate its citizens.

The fall of the last major city outside the capital secured for the insurgents the roads connecting Afghanistan to Pakistan, a western official said.

It followed the Taliban’s seizure of the major northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

“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.”

 Fierce fighting

In early May, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) began a final withdrawal of its mission in Afghanistan involving 9,600 soldiers — 2,500 of them American.

Following the withdrawal, intense fighting broke out between the Taliban and government forces in southern Helmand province.

A bomb blast outside a girls’ school on May 8 in Kabul killed 85, mostly young students.

The deadliest attack in a year is blamed on the Taliban, however, they do not take responsibility for it.

Taliban advances

In mid-May, the US forces withdrew from one of Afghanistan’s largest air bases in Kandahar, the country’s second-biggest city.

The insurgents then seized districts in Wardak province near Kabul, and in the key province of Ghazni, which straddles roads connecting the capital to Kandahar.

By mid-June, the Taliban had managed to capture several districts in northern provinces, forcing military retreats.

On June 22, the Taliban took control of the main Shir Khan Bandar border crossing with Tajikistan, prompting the Central Asian country to check the combat readiness of its armed forces.

US leaves Bagram

Officials on July 2 announced the departure of all American and NATO troops from Bagram, Afghanistan’s biggest airbase, which served as the linchpin of US-led operations in the country for two decades.

Two days later, the Taliban seize the key district of Panjwai in Kandahar, the insurgents’ birthplace and former bastion.

On July 9, the Taliban announced the capture of Islam Qala, Afghanistan’s biggest border crossing with Iran.

On July 14, the insurgents took control of the Spin Boldak border crossing with Pakistan, a major trade route between the two countries.

Urban onslaught

From then onwards, the Taliban offensive escalated sharply with a new focus on urban centres as the insurgents attacked the cities of Lashkar Gah, Kandahar, and Herat.

The United States and Britain say that the Taliban may have committed war crimes, accusing the insurgents of “massacring civilians” in the town of Spin Boldak.

On August 3, eight people are killed in a coordinated bomb and gun attack targeting the Afghan defence minister and several lawmakers in Kabul. The Taliban claim this attack.

On August 6, the Taliban shoot dead the head of the Afghan government’s media information centre at a mosque in the capital, Kabul.

Provincial capitals fall

The Taliban capture their first Afghan provincial capital, the city of Zaranj in southwestern Nimroz, taking it “without a fight”.

The following days several other northern cities fall, Sheberghan, Kunduz, Sar-e-Pul, Taloqan, Aibak, Farah and Pul-e-Khumri.

Despite the bloodshed and sweeping advances, US President Joe Biden gives no suggestion that he will delay the withdrawal deadline.

On August 11, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani flies to the besieged northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif to rally his forces.

Ashraf Ghani’s visit is, however, overshadowed by the surrender of hundreds of Afghan soldiers in nearby Kunduz and the overnight capture of a ninth provincial capital, Faizabad.

Within reach of Kabul

On August 12, the Taliban capture Ghazni, 150 kilometres (90 miles) southwest of Kabul.

Herat falls in the west on the same day, and a day later the Taliban capture Kandahar and Lashkar Gah in the south.

The cities of Asadabad and Gardez fall on Saturday with Mazar-i-Sharif, which President Ghani had visited just three days earlier.

Jalalabad is taken over by the insurgents early on Sunday, leaving Kabul the only remaining major Afghan city still under government control.

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