Afghan president pledges to stop bloodshed as Taliban nears Kabul

Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani held urgent talks with local leaders and international partners on Saturday as Taliban fighters pushed closer to the capital, Kabul.

“As your president, my focus is on preventing further instability, violence, and displacement of my people,” Ghani said in a brief televised address.

Meanwhile, the Taliban launched a multi-pronged assault on Saturday on Mazar-i-Sharif, a major city in northern Afghanistan, as it continues an offensive to capture more cities and provinces across the country.

The fighters have captured much of northern, western and southern Afghanistan in a breakneck military operation less than three weeks before the United States is set to withdraw its last troops, raising fears of a full takeover or another Afghan civil war.

With the Taliban in control of two-thirds of the war-torn country, thousands have fled via the capital’s international airport. The US and European countries also started evacuating their embassy staff as the Taliban moves closer to the capital, Kabul.

Kabul overwhelmed by internally displaced

Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul is facing an increasing humanitarian crisis as thousands of people stream into the city to escape violence elsewhere.

Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride reports from Kabul.

Afghanistan picks Sadat to lead Kabul security affairs

Afghanistan has appointed Lieutenant General Syed Samai Sadat to lead the security affairs of Kabul province, the presidential palace announced.

Previously, Sadat was in charge of the government’s security efforts in Helmand province. The province fell to the Taliban late last week.

Sadat’s latest appointment comes days after he was selected to lead special operations for the Afghan National Security Forces as the Taliban inches closer to the capital, Kabul.

Qatar urges Taliban to cease fire at meeting in Doha

Qatar said it had urged the Taliban to cease fire and pull back their offensive in Afghanistan during a meeting between the Qatari foreign minister and a top representative of the group in Doha on Saturday.

Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammad bin Abdulrahman Al Thani met the head of the Taliban’s political bureau, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, to follow up on peace talks hosted by the Gulf country, the Qatari foreign ministry said in a statement on its website.

Czech Republic evacuates embassy in Kabul

The Czech Republic was evacuating its two diplomats from its embassy in Kabul on Saturday, Foreign Minister Jakub Kulhanek said.

“I have decided on the immediate evacuation of our diplomats to the international airport in Kabul,” Kulhanek said.

Afghan forces repulse major Taliban assault

Afghan forces claimed on Saturday to have repulsed a major Taliban assault by hundreds of fighters in the key northern city of Maymana, killing 27.

At least 2,000 Taliban fighters staged a coordinated assault on the provincial capital of Maymana late on Friday.

“(Twenty-seven) Taliban terrorists were killed and 16 others were wounded in the clash, including Mullah Shoaib, the head of the Taliban’s military commission and a number of Pakistani militants,” Abdul Karim Yurish, spokesman for the police command, told Anadolu news agency.

He added that air strikes were also conducted on the rebels.

German army prepares for large evacuation mission from Kabul

Germany’s armed forces have begun preparations for a mission to Afghanistan to evacuate German citizens and local Afghan employees out of the country, sources told DPA news agency on Saturday.

A measure to authorise the mission was said to be moving quickly through parliament so that the Rapid Forces Division could deploy within a week.

There are currently well over 100 German nationals in Afghanistan, including diplomats and staff at the embassy in Kabul, as well as experts at other ministries and organisations.

President Ghani no longer ‘in control’: Analyst

Haroun Rahimi, a law professor at the American University of Afghanistan, said the Afghan government’s leverage is “shrinking”.

President Ghani is “not in control anymore,” Rahimi told Al Jazeera. “It’s not about President Ghani anymore, it’s about making the transition as bloodlessly, as orderly and as swiftly as possible.”

According to Rahimi, if Kabul falls under pressure, all hopes for a political settlement will be lost.

Rahimi believes that the government needs to be handed over to a transitional authority – one that has the “credibility to negotiate on behalf of the anti-Taliban camp”, with the Taliban for some sort of power-sharing agreement.

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