The Taliban is now in control of the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, and reportedly plans to announce the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” after the Afghan president fled and fighters entered the city earlier Sunday.
The situation in Afghanistan is rapidly deteriorating amid the U.S. withdrawal process, with the Taliban quickly taking over major cities throughout the region. The U.S. announced it was sending a few thousand troops back into Afghanistan to help with the evacuation process Saturday, and even though billions of dollars was given to build up Afghan’s security forces throughout the nearly 20-year war, the Taliban has taken over in less than two weeks.
#BREAKING: Taliban in a fresh statement says it has decided to enter Kabul even after deciding this morning that they shall wait for transition of power. Says decision taken so that abusers/thieves don’t get mixed and harass common people. Taliban asks common people not to fear. pic.twitter.com/9RwjarXe80
— Aditya Raj Kaul (@AdityaRajKaul) August 15, 2021
Earlier Sunday, negotiators for the Taliban entered Kabul to discuss transferring power with Afghan officials, The Associated Press reported. A source with direct knowledge of the situation alluded to these conversations, telling the Daily Caller that Afghan officials were planning to “actively” surrender “the government, but in a brokered deal.” (RELATED: FLASHBACK: Biden Predicts Taliban Takeover In Afghanistan Is ‘Not Inevitable’)
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen reportedly said the fighters were waiting for “a peaceful transfer of Kabul,” the AP reported. However, hours later, reports from the ground suggested the Taliban fighters had entered the city. NPR also reported that eyewitnesses in Kabul could see the fighters.
NBC News’ chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel reported that the Taliban announced an entry to Kabul to “stop looting.” Engel then reported “seeing Taliban fighters on street in” the city, adding that they are “armed.”
Reports also suggest that the Taliban has not yet entered downtown Kabul, but instead are on the outskirts of the city, according to the AP. Following anonymous reports to the media of Ghani’s departure, Abdullah Abdullah, the head of the Afghan National Reconciliation Council, confirmed the news.
“The former president of Afghanistan left Afghanistan, leaving the country in this difficult situation,” Abdullah said in a video online, according to the AP. “God should hold him accountable.”
Later Sunday, Al Jazeera TV aired exclusive footage of the Taliban inside the presidential palace. Taliban’s political office spokesman Mohammad Naeem said during this footage that “the war is over in the country” and declared it “a great day for the Afghan people and the mujahideen,” The Jerusalem Post reported. The Taliban reportedly will announce the country as the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” the publication noted.
Armed Taliban fighters have entered Afghanistan’s presidential palace in Kabul hours after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) August 15, 2021
“We have reached what we were seeking, which is the freedom of our country and the independence of our people,” Naeem said during the announcement. “We will not allow anyone to use our lands to target anyone and we do not want to harm others.”
Naeem claimed the Taliban “will provide safety for citizens and diplomatic missions” and said the group is “ready to have a dialog with all Afghan figures.”
The Biden Administration previously expressed hope that Afghanistan would be able to hold its own against the Taliban. However, the downfall has sparked a quick reversal within the administration, and the administration is now reportedly preparing for Kabul to fall, Axios reported.
This is a breaking news story and will be updated as more information becomes available.