Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the nation Sunday, according to news reports, as the government he headed collapsed.
Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, an umbrella group appointed by Ghani last year, said Ghani has left and referred to him as “former president,” CNN reported.
Ghani’s fast exit followed talks at presidential palace in Kabul between the conquering Taliban and the defeated government.
Two iconic images clicked 45 years apart. The US Embassy staff fleeing from Saigon (top) and Kabul (bottom).
Never trust a friend who leaves you saying he’ll be back – Old Vietnamese saying. pic.twitter.com/AIItm8aReA
— Anand Ranganathan (@ARanganathan72) August 15, 2021
“There is an agreement that there will be a transitional administration for orderly transfer of power,” acting Interior Minister Abdul Satar Mirzakwal said Sunday, according to The Washington Post.
The situation in Kabul remained chaotic Sunday, according to news reports.
Wais Omari, 20, a street vendor in Kabul interviewed by The New York Times, reflected the fears running rampant in the streets.
“The situation is not good,” he told the newspaper. “If it gets worse, I will hide in my home.”
CNN described chaos at the airport as well.
“There are big crowds trying to get in and at one stage shooting erupted,” one witness said, according to the network.
“There was also a warning of a ground attack and we were in a bunker for the past hour but now it is all clear,” the source said. “It’s all foreigners here. One young European woman was freaking out.”
The Taliban have indicated fighters are not seeking to wage a battle for the city against Afghan units that were melting away, according to The New York Times.
“The Islamic Emirate instructs all its forces to stand at the gates of Kabul, not to try to enter the city,” a spokesman said, using the Taliban’s formal name.
Helicopters shuttling between downtown Kabul and the airport evacuated American diplomats. Most diplomats were being evacuated from the country, while a few would remain at a diplomatic facility at the airport, the Times reported.
Today the Taliban takes over #Kabul just thirty some days after Biden claimed it was “highly unlikely” and that we “will not see” what we are seeing.
A sad day for Afghanistan pic.twitter.com/6Gz5SxKUQa
— Adam Milstein (@AdamMilstein) August 15, 2021
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday said that the Taliban blitz would have taken place regardless of any U.S. decision to keep forces in Afghanistan.
The Biden administration had set an Aug. 31 deadline for U.S. forces to leave the nation after a presence of about 20 years.
“If the president had decided to stay, all gloves would’ve been off, we would’ve been back at war with the Taliban, attacking our forces, the offensive you’ve seen throughout the country almost certainly would’ve proceeded,” Blinken said, according to The Washington Post.
Anger at the collapse flowed from many lawmakers.
Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska issued a statement blaming both President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump.
“The unmitigated disaster in Afghanistan – the shameful, Saigon-like abandonment of Kabul, the brutalization of Afghan women, and the slaughter of our allies – is the predictable outcome of the Trump-Biden doctrine of weakness,” Sasse, an outspoken Trump critic who was one of only a handful of GOP senators who voted to convict Trump in his impeachment trial in February.
In a statement issued Saturday evening, however, Trump declared his plans for an Afghan withdrawal would not have been the chaotic situation the world has witnessed with Biden in the White House. His foreign policy, he said, had been based on American strength, and the world, including the Taliban, knew it.
“After I took out ISIS, I established a credible deterrent,” Trump said in a statement distributed via his Save America PAC.
“That deterrent is now gone. The Taliban no longer has fear or respect for America, or America’s power. What a disgrace it will be when the Taliban raises their flag over America’s Embassy in Kabul. This is complete failure through weakness, incompetence, and total strategic incoherence.”
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