Taliban fighters encircled the Afghan capital on Sunday and said they were awaiting a “peaceful transfer” of the city after promising not to take it by force.
Taliban fighters amassed on the outskirts of Kabul and were on the brink of a complete military takeover of Afghanistan. But a spokesman said they were ordered not to enter the capital.
A tweet from the Afghan presidential palace account said gunfire had been heard at a number of points around Kabul but security forces – in coordination with international partners – remained in control of the city.
What about Afghanistan’s president?
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani promised via a television address on Sunday to take responsibility for the security of the people of Kabul and meet anyone disturbing the law and order with “full force”.
Officials say the Taliban is seeking the unconditional surrender of the central government.
Who is in charge?
Afghan Interior Minister Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal said there would be a “peaceful transfer of power” to a transitional government.
“The Afghan people should not worry … There will be no attack on the city and there will be a peaceful transfer of power to the transitional government,” he said in a recorded speech.
An Afghan official told The Associated Press news agency that Taliban negotiators were heading to the presidential palace to prepare for a “transfer” of power.
There was no immediate word on the situation from President Ghani. A palace official said he was in emergency talks with US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and top NATO officials.
Kabul residents reported seeing Taliban fighters peacefully enter some of Kabul’s outer suburbs.
What was the international reaction?
Russia said it was working with other countries to hold an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting on Afghanistan as the Taliban completes its takeover, foreign ministry official Zamir Kabulov told Russian news agencies. “We are working on this,” Kabulov said.
Kabulov also said Moscow does not plan to evacuate its embassy in Kabul, saying the Taliban had offered Russia security assurances for its missions in Afghanistan.
US officials said diplomats were being ferried by helicopter to the airport from its embassy. More American troops were being sent to help in the evacuations.
US President Joe Biden said it was up to the Afghan military to hold its own territory. “An endless American presence in the middle of another country’s civil conflict was not acceptable to me,” Biden said on Saturday.
Pakistan foreign officer spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhry said there were concerns “about the increasingly deteriorating situation”, but “we have not taken any decision to close our embassy”.