Follow Us:

Afghan president flees the country as Taliban move on Kabul

Abdullah Abdullah, the head of the Afghan National Reconciliation Council, later confirmed Ghani had left in an online video. 
“He left Afghanistan in a hard time, God hold him accountable,” Abdullah said.

AP | Kabul |

Afghanistan’s embattled president Ashraf Ghani fled the country Sunday as the Taliban moved further into Kabul, officials said. His countrymen and foreigners alike raced for the exit, signaling the end of a 20-year Western experiment aimed at remaking Afghanistan.

Ghani flew out of the country, two officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity as they weren’t authorized to brief journalists. Abdullah Abdullah, the head of the Afghan National Reconciliation Council, later confirmed Ghani had left in an online video.

“He left Afghanistan in a hard time, God hold him accountable,” Abdullah said.

Civilians fearing that the Taliban could reimpose the kind of brutal rule that all but eliminated women’s rights rushed to leave the country, lining up at cash machines to withdraw their life savings.

Helicopters buzzed overhead to evacuate personnel from the U.S. Embassy, while smoke rose near the compound as staff destroyed important documents. Several other Western missions also prepared to pull their people out.

In a stunning rout, the Taliban seized nearly all of Afghanistan in just over a week, despite the billions of dollars spent by the U.S. and NATO over nearly two decades to build up Afghan security forces. Just days earlier, an American military assessment estimated it would be a month before the capital would come under insurgent pressure.

Instead, the Taliban swiftly defeated, co-opted or sent Afghan security forces fleeing from wide swaths of the country, even though they had some air support from the U.S. military.

Taliban fighters entered Kabul on Sunday and sought the unconditional surrender of the central government, officials said, as Afghans and foreigners alike raced for the exit, signaling the end of a 20-year Western experiment aimed at remaking Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, Canada suspended diplomatic operations in Afghanistan and Canadian personnel are on their way back to Canada. Foreign Minister Marc Garneau said in a statement the decision to suspend operations is temporary and the embassy will reopen if the security situation allows staff to be safe.

Some 40,000 Canadian troops were deployed in Afghanistan over 13 years as part of the NATO mission before pulling out in 2014. More than 150 Canadian soldiers died during the Afghanistan mission.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the U.S. is evacuating remaining staff at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul as the Taliban enter the Afghan capital. But he is playing down America’s hasty exit, saying “this is manifestly not Saigon.”

Blinken also confirmed that U.S. Embassy workers were destroying documents and other items ahead of fleeing the embassy, but insisted “this is being done in a very deliberate way, it’s being done in an orderly way, and it’s being done with American forces there to make sure we can do it in a safe way.”

A special flight of Pakistan’s national airline PIA has arrived in Islamabad carrying 329 passengers from Kabul, and another carrying 170 people will arrive later today. A spokesman for the airline said Saturday that the airline will operate three flights tomorrow to transport Pakistanis and other nationalities looking to leave Kabul.

NATO says that it is “helping to maintain operations at Kabul airport to keep Afghanistan connected with the world.” In a statement, it says that it would also maintain its diplomatic presence in Kabul. “The security of our personnel is paramount, and we continue to adjust as necessary,” it added.

Turkey’s president says his country will work for stability in Afghanistan along with Pakistan, in order to stem a growing migration wave amid the Taliban’s countrywide offensive.