Afghan president leaves country, Taliban forces enter Kabul

KABUL, Aug. 16 (Xinhua) -- Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani left the country on Sunday night, while the Taliban forces entered the capital of Kabul and took control of the presidential palace.

Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani looks on while attending a Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board meeting (JCMB) at the Afghan presidential palace in Kabul on July 28, 2021. (File photo: AFP)

Ghani confirmed on his Facebook page late on Sunday that he has left the country, saying the move was to prevent bloodshed.

"If there were still countless countrymen martyred and they would face the destruction and destruction of Kabul city, the result would have been a big human disaster in the city," Ghani said.

The Taliban is now responsible for protecting the honor and wealth of the Afghan people, adding that he will continue to serve the nation, he said.

Ghani did not mention his current location in the Facebook post. Media reports said he fled to Uzbekistan with his wife. A senior Interior Ministry official said earlier in the day that he was heading for Tajikistan, while a Foreign Ministry official said his destination remains unknown.

Meanwhile, the Taliban has assured that all the diplomatic missions and foreign citizens in Kabul will face no dangers. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said they are committed to ensuring security in the Afghan capital.

The Taliban forces entered Kabul city and took control of the presidential palace. The group has taken control of all the districts of Kabul, Taliban spokesman Mujahid said.

Mujahid said that overnight patrolling of the city will be launched soon.

Media reports also said the group will soon declare the establishment of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

A curfew has been imposed in Kabul starting 21:00 local time on Sunday to prevent violence.

Two powerful explosions occurred late on Sunday near the US embassy and the presidential palace in Kabul, media reports said, quoting eyewitnesses.

A shooting started with the use of light and heavy weapons soon after the explosions, according to the reports.

The overall situation in the Afghan capital remains calm after the Taliban reached Kabul, even though there is sporadic shooting, United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Ramiz Alakbarov told Sputnik.

"Right now I do not hear any signs of active hostilities in the part of Kabul where I am currently located, no active shooting. Sporadic shooting can be heard, but overall, it's relatively calm," Alakbarov told Sputnik over the phone.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told the BBC earlier in the day that he could confirm there were talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban about a peaceful takeover of power. Head of the High Council for the National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah was reportedly organizing the negotiation.

Two Taliban officials told Reuters on Sunday that there would be no transitional government in Afghanistan and the group expects a complete handover of power from the Afghan government.

A Taliban spokesman said that the military group expects a peaceful transition of power "in the next few days."

However, earlier in the day, Afghan acting Interior Minister Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal said that "power will be peacefully transferred to a transitional government."

"People should not worry about the safety and security in Kabul," he said.

The Taliban has also pledged that "no one's life, property and dignity will be harmed and the lives of the citizens of Kabul will not be at risk."

According to the group, foreigners could leave Kabul or the country through the Kabul airport, or register their stay in the country with the group.

Meanwhile, the United States was reported to have completed the evacuation of its embassy in Afghanistan.

The EU staff in Kabul have been transfered to a safe and undisclosed place. Some other Western missions were also busily evacuating their staff, reports said.

Inside the city, offices and buildings were deserted, and shops were shut down. Locals were rushing to their homes or out of the city to avoid possible fightings.

All commercial flights from Kabul airport have been suspended and only military flights are currently allowed, a NATO official said.

The Pentagon authorized the deployment of extra 1,000 US troops to facilitate US citizens evacuation from Kabul, bringing the total number of troops to be stationed in Afghanistan temporarily to 6,000, reports said citing an unnamed US official.

Outside of Kabul, the Taliban took control of Bagram prison at Bagram Airfield, 50 km north of Kabul, and released all inmates, Taliban spokesman Mujahid tweeted.

"All prisoners were released and were transported to a safe place," he said.

The prison homes about 5,000 to 7,000 inmates, mainly Taliban prisoners.

The Bagram Airfield, in Bagram district of eastern Parwan province, has served as a main US and NATO forces base for the past 20 years.

Mujahid also said Taliban members has taken control of Bamyan city, capital of central Bamyan province at around midday on Sunday.

Since the US troops started to pull out of Afghanistan from May 1, the Taliban started to launch major offensives on Afghan forces. During the past 10 days, the military group has captured at least 25 provincial capitals of Afghanistan's 34 provinces in its blitz attacks, basically surrounding the capital of Kabul.

US President Joe Biden has defended his decision of the troops withdrawl, and a US official said the country is unlikely to change its military strategy in Afghanistan.

The UN Security Council has decided to hold an emergency meeting on Afghanistan on Monday.fU,.