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Taliban takes over Afghanistan

Newsman: The Talban takes over Afghanistan. As the insurgents closed in, President Ashraf Ghani flew out of the country. Heavily armed Taliban fighters fanned out across the capital, and several entered Kabul’s abandoned presidential palace. Many people watched helicopters landed in the U.S. Embassy compound to take diplomats to a new outpost at the airport. The Taliban seized control of Afghanistan’s capital Sunday following President Ashraf Ghani’s departure from the country, bringing an abrupt end to the 20-year U.S. effort to restructure the Afghan government and its military.

More than 60 nations released the joint statement distributed by the U.S. State Department late Sunday night. The statement says that those in power and authority across Afghanistan “bear responsibility — and accountability — for the protection of human life and property, and for the immediate restoration of security and civil order.”

The nations’ statement also says that roads, airports and border crossings must remain open, and that calm must be maintained.

President Joe Biden said Monday that he stood by his decision to withdraw, adding that the U.S. mission for going in was “never supposed to be nation-building.”

President Biden spoke on Taliban take over

Biden admitted that the situation deteriorated quicker than his administration had anticipated after it inherited a withdrawal deal negotiated by former President Donald Trump. Biden also blamed the U.S.-backed Afghan government and military for allowing the Taliban to take over.

“Afghanistan political leaders gave up and fled the country; the Afghan military collapsed, sometimes without trying to fight,” Biden said. “If anything, the developments of the past week reinforce that ending U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan now was the right decision.”

The deployment of 6,000 troops will be focused on securing the airfield to get U.S. citizens out of Afghanistan, as well as supporting the safe departure of U.S. allies, Biden said.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken rejected comparisons to the U.S. pullout from Vietnam.

“This is manifestly not Saigon,” he told on ABC’s “This Week.”

The American ambassador was among those evacuated, officials said. He was asking to return to the embassy, but it was not clear if he would be allowed to. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing operations.

Suhail Shaheen, a Taliban spokesman and negotiator, told The Associated Press that the militants would hold talks in the coming days aimed at forming an “open, inclusive Islamic government.”

Talibans  swept into Afghanistan’s capital Sunday after the government collapsed and the embattled president joined an exodus of his fellow citizens and foreigners, signaling the end of a costly two-decade U.S. campaign to remake the country.

Evacuation flights at Kabul airport resumed Monday, hours after desperate Afghans surrounded passenger jets and tried to force themselves onto a plane overnight as panic spread after the Taliban took control of the capital 20 years after having been toppled by U.S. forces. Commercial flights were suspended after sporadic gunfire erupted at the Kabul airport, according to two senior U.S. military officials. Evacuations then continued on military flights, but the halt to commercial traffic closed off one of the last routes available for fleeing Afghans.

A video showed a U.S. military aircraft trying to take flight as dozens of Afghans sprinted alongside, apparently in an attempt to stop it from taking off without them. Some even climbed aboard, clinging to the outside as the aircraft gained speed.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the airport, separated by a row of barbed wire, the U.S. rushed to evacuate American diplomats. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said late Sunday that all embassy personnel had been safely evacuated to premises at the airport, whose perimeter is secured by the U.S. military. Defense Department press secretary John Kirby said Monday that 1,000 more troops would be deployed to Kabul, eventually bringing the total force there to more than 6,000. About 2,500 U.S. troops are on the ground.

Kirby also confirmed two incidents in which U.S. troops fired on armed people at the airport, resulting in the deaths of two of them. Later, Kirby addressed the situation at the airport during a news conference by saying preparations were made to “examine what a noncombatant evacuation would look like.”

“It’s not a perfect process,” Kirby said. “Plans aren’t always perfectly predicted.”

Earlier, a Taliban official said the group would announce from the palace the restoration of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the formal name of the country under Taliban rule before the militants were ousted by U.S.-led forces in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

Kabul was gripped by panic. Helicopters raced overhead throughout the day to evacuate personnel from the U.S. Embassy. Smoke rose near the compound as staff destroyed important documents, and the American flag was lowered. Several other Western missions also prepared to pull their people out.

 “The former president of Afghanistan left Afghanistan, leaving the country in this difficult situation,” said Abdullah Abdullah, the head of the Afghan National Reconciliation Council and a longtime rival of Ghani. “God should hold him accountable.”

Ghani later posted on Facebook that he left to avert bloodshed in the capital, without saying where he had gone.

As night fell, Taliban fighters deployed across Kabul, taking over abandoned police posts and pledging to maintain law and order during the transition. Residents reported looting in parts of the city, including in the upscale diplomatic district, and messages circulating on social media advised people to stay inside and lock their gates.

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 20 years to build up Afghan security forces. Just days earlier, an American military assessment estimated that the capital would not come under insurgent pressure for a month.

After the insurgents entered Kabul, Taliban negotiators discussed a transfer of power, said an Afghan official. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the closed-door negotiations, described them as “tense.”

It remained unclear when that transfer would take place and who among the Taliban was negotiating. The negotiators on the government side included former President Hamid Karzai, leader of Hizb-e-Islami political and paramilitary group Gulbudin Hekmatyar, and Abdullah, who has been a vocal critic of Ghani.

The fall of Kabul marks the final chapter of America’s longest war, which began after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. A U.S.-led invasion dislodged the Taliban and beat them back, but America lost focus on the conflict in the chaos of the Iraq war.

For years, the U.S. sought an exit from Afghanistan. Then-President Donald Trump signed a deal with the Taliban in February 2020 that limited direct military action against the insurgents. That allowed the fighters to gather strength and move quickly to seize key areas when President Joe Biden announced his plans to withdraw all American forces by the end of this month.

Former President Hamid Karzai himself appeared in a video posted online, his three young daughters around him, saying he remained in Kabul.

“We are trying to solve the issue of Afghanistan with the Taliban leadership peacefully,” he said.

Afghanistan’s acting defense minister, Bismillah Khan Mohammadi,  criticized of the fleeing president,

“They tied our hands from behind and sold the country,” he wrote on Twitter. “Curse Ghani and his gang.”

The Taliban earlier insisted that their fighters would not enter people’s homes or interfere with businesses and said they would offer “amnesty” to those who worked with the Afghan government or foreign forces.

But there have been reports of revenge killings and other brutal tactics in areas of the country the Taliban have seized in recent days. Reports of gunfire at the airport raised the specter of more violence.

 One female journalist, weeping, sent voice messages to colleagues after armed men entered her apartment building and banged on her door, AP reported.

“What should I do? Should I call the police or Taliban?” Getee Azami cried. It wasn’t clear what happened to her after that.

An Afghan university student described feeling betrayed as she watched the evacuation of the U.S. Embassy.

“You failed the younger generation of Afghanistan,” said Aisha Khurram, 22, who is now unsure of whether she will be able to graduate in two months. She said her generation was “hoping to build the country with their own hands. They put blood, efforts and sweat into whatever we had right now.”

Sunday began with the Taliban seizing Jalalabad, the last major city besides the capital not in their hands. Afghan officials said the militants also took the capitals of Maidan Wardak, Khost, Kapisa and Parwan provinces, as well as the country’s last government-held border post.

The U.S. military suspended operations at Kabul airport for several hours Monday because chaos on the runways meant it was unsafe for planes to land or take off, three U.S. officials said. They resumed hours later, with C-17s landing on the military side of the airport.

The United Nations said thousands of people continue to be displaced into Kabul and other urban areas, and at least 17,600 internally displaced people need humanitarian assistance.

Officials said Monday that the government is prepared to take more than 20,000 Afghans who are candidates for Special Immigrant Visas, or SIVs, with them to U.S. bases. A total of 700 people have left the country since Saturday.

President Biden  issued a memo Monday evening directing Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to use $500 million — authorized through the Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1962 — to assist in “meeting unexpected urgent refugee and migration needs of refugees, victims of conflict, and other persons at risk as a result of the situation in Afghanistan.”

“Our military embrace the opportunity to recognize their contributions to combined operations in Afghanistan by welcoming them into the U.S.,” said the Pentagon’s director for defense intelligence, Garry Reid, adding that officials are working to create capacity to support refugee relocation at temporary sites.

“At this point, we’re looking to establish 22,000 spaces,” Reid said. “We can expand if we need to.”

Civilian flights stopped Sunday because of people on the runways and a radar issue, the officials said, adding that the intention was to reopen the civilian side, too, but that the radar issue needed to be fixed first.

Addressing criticism of America’s apparent failure to remove Afghans who supported U.S. interests, Biden blamed the lack of a wide-scale evacuation effort on resistance from the Afghan government.

“I know there were concerns about why we did not begin evacuating Afghan civilians,” Biden said. “So, part of the answer is some of the Afghans did not want to leave it, still hopeful for their country. And part of it is because the Afghan government … discouraged us from organizing a mass exodus to avoid triggering — as they said — a crisis of confidence.”:56

As the Taliban took hold of the country, Democrats on Capitol Hill and former Obama administration officials joined Republicans in publicly criticizing Biden’s handling of the situation. While most agreed with the decision to remove troops, they attacked Biden’s failure to help the thousands of Afghans who assisted U.S. forces over the 20-year war effort exit the country before the Taliban took over, and the scramble to evacuate Americans from the country.

“This is a crisis of untold proportions,” said Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., who had urged Biden to make an address to the nation. “This is an intelligence failure.”

Ryan Crocker, who was ambassador to Afghanistan in the Obama administration, said the Biden administration had “a total lack of coordinated, post-withdrawal planning,” and that the predicament was a “self-inflicted wound.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement Monday evening that he supported the administration’s withdrawal but has urged the White House to protect “brave Afghans that have worked alongside our country and who are in immediate danger.”

“I’ve been on the phone with the White House and other senior administration officials to ensure the United States is doing everything we can to get these people out quickly and safely,” Schumer said.

Schumer also joined a bipartisan group of 45 senators, who signed a letter urging the administration to prioritize protecting Afghan women and girls by streamlining the visa process following reports of rape, torture and kidnappings by the Taliban.

China and  Russia has expressed their position on latest Taliban take over. China  said, it is willing to forge “friendly relations” with the militants. Russia said Sunday that it did not plan to evacuate its embassy in Kabul and that it would “now be talking” to the Taliban political office in Doha, Qatar.

While in office, former President Donald Trump negotiated a deal with the Taliban to withdraw U.S. military personnel by May 1 of this year. After he was inaugurated, Biden said the withdrawal would be completed by the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks.

In July, Biden insisted that a Taliban takeover was not inevitable and that the Afghan military was well-equipped and trained to keep the Taliban at bay. “I trust the capacity of the Afghan military,” Biden said at the time.

As U.S. forces began to withdraw earlier this year, the Taliban, facing little resistance from the U.S.-trained Afghan military, rapidly expanded their control, ultimately taking Kabul within weeks.

“The events we are seeing now are sadly proof that no amount of military force would have ever delivered a stable, united, secure Afghanistan,” Biden said Monday. “I will not mislead the American people by claiming that just a little more time in Afghanistan will make all the difference.”

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