On Sunday, 15th August 2021, The Taliban swept into Kabul and seized control of the Presidential Palace. Kabul’s government under President Ashraf Ghani largely collapsed, ceding power to the Taliban to “avoid bloodshed”. Ghani fled to neighboring Tajikistan and is likely to enter a third country. The Taliban have formally announced the “Islamic State of Afghanistan” from within the Presidential Palace. Suhail Shaheen, the spokesperson for Taliban said that soon they would announce the formation of an “open, inclusive Islamic government.” Taliban announced that their enemies will not be hurt.
The collapse of Kabul and the new guardians
Anas Malick, a Pakistani journalist in Afghanistan had been updating movements via twitter minute by minute. He had shared around 9.30 am Sunday in a Twitter space that the Taliban could take over Kabul any minute, they are simply waiting for International evacuations to proceed to avoid damage to their international recognition as the future government of Afghanistan. This is evident from what Suhail Shaheen said that they do not wish their government to be insulated from the world.
— Anas Mallick (@AnasMallick) August 15, 2021
When I live went this morning in Kabul, I had no idea about the day ending like this – Narrating through the events, countless source based calls, plenty of inputs – Witnessed, covered and reported History in Making from ground as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani left Afghanistan. pic.twitter.com/i6Y7E84P84
— Anas Mallick (@AnasMallick) August 15, 2021
Ghani along with his key members, Amrullah Saleh, Hamdullah Mohib; and Fazel Fazly, immediately fled the country, while some cabinet members are still present within Kabul. It is essentially dissolved and now overtaken by the Taliban. Former Afghan diplomat Omar Samad stated that “there are security units all over but no commander in chief at the helm after the top echelon fled the country.”
Afghanistan’s security forces were initially partially in control of the city as of late on August 15, however, they could not resist the Taliban’s forces. Although they pledged not to enter the city, the Taliban had already sent in its men to most parts of Kabul. This was said to be a part of their plan to maintain stability, despite sporadic gunfire being reported. The Taliban have also replaced the flag of Afghanistan with a black and white one that they had initially kept before US-led forces entered Afghanistan in the early 2000s.
In an interview with Aljazeera, a Taliban spokesperson said, “We have reached what we were seeking, which is the freedom of our country and the independence of our people,” he added, “We will not allow anyone to use our lands to target anyone, and we do not want to harm others.”
The Taliban released a video on Monday 16th August, with Mullah Baradar seated. He said that the real test now begins. “ We congratulate the great victory to the whole Afghan nation, especially to the people of Kabul and to our Mujahideens. The way we have come through was unexpected as we have reached a position that was never expected. But, with the help of Allah, he has given us victory and there is nothing like this in the history of the world, so we should thank Allah. We should have no arrogance. Now is the time to trial, we will give services to our nation, we give serenity to the whole nation, that we will go as far as possible for the betterment of their lives,” He shared.
This is too easily passed over https://t.co/5cZVUSENIl
— Hussein Ibish (@Ibishblog) August 16, 2021
Fearful flights and hurried evacuations
Fear and panic ensued with the Taliban’s rapid entrance into the city, causing thousands of Afghans and foreign nationals to chase flights. The Afghan people, desperate to leave the country, fled to the Kabul airport. The chaos amplified when gunshots were heard nearby the airport.
— Yalda Hakim (@BBCYaldaHakim) August 15, 2021
Helicopters were overhead the entire day to help US embassy personnel evacuate. The Americans had already issued warnings to their staff to not travel to the airport and take shelter as guided. Afghans who were flooding to the airport to leave were devastated when commercial flights were suspended after gunshots were heard at the Kabul airport, according to two senior U.S. military officials. South Korea, Japan, New Zealand along with 60 other countries have called for the safe departure of foreign nationals from Afghanistan. Afghan pilots were reported to have fled to Uzbekistan while about 64 Afghan military personnel were detained on entering Uzbekistan’s boundaries.
The United States joins the international community in affirming that Afghans and international citizens who wish to depart must be allowed to do so. Roads, airports, and border crossing must remain open, and calm must be maintained. https://t.co/lsNdsPETsW
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) August 16, 2021
UAE has suspended flights till further notice and many countries like Britain and Qatar are rerouting flights amidst all chaos. New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, “We are gravely concerned by the advance of the Taliban and the threat that poses to those attempting to get out, including foreign nationals.” President Moon Jae in from South Korea asserted that the evacuations must take place safely till “the last person.” Scott Morrison, the prime minister of Australia, said, “Absolutely devastated about it. It’s terrible, it’s a terrible situation.” Pakistan extended its services to help the Afghan people and foreign consulates to coordinate with Pakistan International Airlines (PIA). The statement issued by Pakistan said, “A special inter-ministerial cell has been established in the Ministry of Interior to facilitate visa/arrival matters for diplomatic personnel, UN agencies, international organisations, media and others.”
Pakistan is closely following the unfolding situation in Afghanistan, and will continue to support the efforts for political settlement. We hope all Afghan sides will work together to resolve this internal political crisis. 1/3 pic.twitter.com/NPnrqodPWI
— Spokesperson 🇵🇰 MoFA (@ForeignOfficePk) August 15, 2021
Kabul’s fall on 15th August marks the end of the longest American war that began after the terror attacks of September 2001. America has been wanting to exit Afghanistan and this manifested under President Trumps’ deal with the Taliban in 2020. President Biden carried forward this plan to withdraw US troops and refocus his attention solely towards China.