Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, on Sunday fled the country as the Taliban terrorist group surrounded the capital, Kabul, according to a senior official, while the Taliban entered the Afghan presidential palace.
Photos circulating online show members of the Taliban, holding AK-47-style rifles, inside the palace. Speaking to Al Jazeera TV during a live stream, a member of the group who was inside the presidential palace said the Taliban is planning to declare Afghanistan the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” in the near future.
“We have reached a victory that we couldn’t imagine,” said Mullah Baradar, a co-founder of the Taliban, in a video addressed to the group’s supporters. He added that “now it’s about how we serve and secure our people, and ensure their good life to best of ability,” according to a translation.
Abdullah Abdullah, the head of the High Council for National Reconciliation, confirmed on social media that Ghani fled the country, coming about a day after Ghani claimed that he would be able to muster the remnants of the Afghan government forces to mount a defense of Kabul, a city of 6 million.
“The former president of Afghanistan left Afghanistan, leaving the country in this difficult situation,” Abdullah said in a video, according to a translation of his comments on social media. “God should hold him accountable.”
Ghani issued a statement hours later, saying he departed to avoid bloodshed in Kabul.
“I came across a hard choice; I should stand to face the armed Taliban who wanted to enter the palace or leave the dear country that I dedicated my life to protecting … the past 20 years,” he said in the message, according to a translation.
Videos circulating online showed the Taliban entering Kabul, with crowds of supporters greeting them. The U.S. Embassy, meanwhile, said in an alert that the Kabul airport was taking fire and called on American staff to shelter in place.