Afghan Taliban waving a flag on the back of a pickup truck drive past a crowded street in Jalalabad on Sunday. Reuters
Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani fled the country on Sunday and according to local media reports he was heading to Tajikistan.
The move effective means that government has ceded power to the Taliban, who reached Kabul to seal a nationwide military victory in just 10 days.
Ghani's departure from office was one of the key demands of the
Taliban during months of peace talks with the government had demanded Ghani to quit, but the president refused to leave office.
The Taliban raced closer to a complete military takeover of Afghanistan as fighters entered the outskirts of Kabul on Sunday.
Panicked workers fled government offices and helicopters began landing at the US Embassy in the Afghan capital after the insurgents took control of the key eastern city of Jalalabad, just hours after seizing the northern anti-Taliban bastion of Mazar-i-Sharif — extending an astonishing rout of government forces and warlord militias achieved in just 10 days.
Taliban approach Kabul outskirts, capture Mazar-i-Sharif city
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The loss of Mazar-i-Sharif and Jalalabad were huge back-to-back blows for Ghani and his government, Taliban further tightening its grip on the country.
According to media reports quoting Afghan government officials and eyewitnesses the Taliban on Sunday started entering Kabul from all sides.
VOA reported there is panic on the streets of Kabul as the news broke that the Taliban had entered the city. They are only on the outskirts, but government offices started getting evacuated.
In a nationwide offensive that has taken just over a week, the Taliban has defeated, co-opted or sent Afghan security forces fleeing from wide swathes of the country, even with some air support by the US military.
A US Chinook helicopter flies over the city of Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sunday. Rahmat Gul/AP
President Ashraf Ghani, who spoke to the nation Saturday for the first time since the offensive began, appears increasingly isolated as well. Warlords he negotiated with just days earlier have surrendered to the Taliban or fled, leaving Ghani without a military option. Ongoing negotiations in Qatar, the site of a Taliban office, also have failed to stop the insurgents' advance.
Thousands of civilians now live in parks and open spaces in Kabul itself, fearing the future. While Kabul appeared calm on Sunday, some ATMs stopped distributing cash as hundreds gathered in front of private banks, trying to withdraw their life savings.
Taliban fighters sit over a vehicle on a street in Laghman province on Sunday. AFP
Militants posted photos online early on Sunday showing them in the governor's office in Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province.
Pro-Taliban social media accounts boasted that its fighters were moving rapidly through the outlying districts of Kabul province, with the outskirts of the city in close proximity.
"Don't panic! Kabul is safe!" tweeted Matin Bek, President Ashraf Ghani's chief of staff.Ghani's government appeared to be left with few options as the Taliban effectively surrounded Kabul — either prepare for a bloody fight for the capital or capitulate.
"Today is a great day for the Afghan people and the mujahideen. They have witnessed the fruits of their efforts and their sacrifices for 20 years," Mohammad Naeem, the spokesman for the Taliban's political office, told the media.
According to a pool report from a journalist accompanying Pompeo, the top US diplomat was welcomed by special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad — the lead US negotiator in recent talks with the Taliban — after arriving at Kabul airport.
The envoy, Afghan-born Zalmay Khalilzad, the architect of a February agreement with the Taliban clearing the way for a US troop withdrawal, met Taliban leaders in Doha on Wednesday, hours after meeting government leaders in Kabul.
The aims of the trip include regaining sway with Riyadh over oil prices, fending off Chinese and Russian influence in the region, and nurturing hopes for an eventual Saudi-Israeli normalisation.
Blasts at a Soviet-era dam in the Russian controlled part of southern Ukraine on Tuesday unleashed floodwaters across the war zone, according to both Ukrainian and Russian forces who blamed each other for blowing-up the dam.
Nearly 13,400 people were forced to evacuate as water consumed hundreds of homes around the country, turning some streets into raging rivers of brown water, according to Haiti’s Civil Protection Agency.
Sheikh Hamdan said on Twitter, "We extend our sincere condolences and sympathy to the family, relatives, companions and readers of Khalid Al Qashtini, the Iraqi journalist and writer, and the owner of the creative pen, who enriched our Arab world with his publications. With his departure, the Arab media loses a symbol of creativity.”