Taliban at presidential palace to negotiate transfer of power

President Ashraf Ghani flees Afghanistan

August 15, 2021 - 18:23

Afghan local media and officials said on Sunday that President Ashraf Ghani and Vice-President Amrullah Saleh had fled to neighboring Tajikistan as the Taliban surrounded the capital Kabul.

However, Ghani denied permission to land in Tajikistan and fled to Oman, sources told India Today. The newspaper said on Monday that Ghani will likely to head to the United States.  

Local news reports suggest that the duo handed over their powers to a transitional council before abdicating their offices. 

Before reports of his resignation and fleeing emerged, U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad and officials from NATO held talks with Ghani.

Russia's embassy in Kabul said on Monday that President Ghani had fled the country with four cars and a helicopter full of cash and had to leave some money behind as it would not all fit in, the RIA news agency reported.

In a televised national address Saturday, Ghani rejected suggestions he might resign in his first appearance since the rapid offensive, saying his focus is to "prevent further instability, violence and displacement of our people."

"Therefore, I have started extensive consultations inside the government, with the elders and political leaders, representatives of people from all walks of life and our international partners," he said. "Swift consultations in this regard are going on and the results will soon be shared with you, my dear compatriots."

Abdullah Abdullah, Afghan chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation,  has also said in a video statement that Ghani has left the country, referring to him as “former president”.

Abdullah blamed President Ghani for the current situation in the war-ravaged country.

Negotiations are underway for transition of power, according to CNN.

Acting Afghan Interior Minister Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal says Kabul will not be attacked and that they will shift power peacefully to a transitional administration, though he did not say what a transitional government may look like.

In an on-camera video statement carried by Afghan news agency TOLO, he assured Kabul residents that security forces would secure the city.

Around the same time on Sunday, the Taliban issued a statement saying it was in talks with "the opposing side" for a peaceful surrender of the capital.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah said that all fighters had been instructed to be on standby at all entrances to Kabul until a peaceful and satisfactory transfer of power was agreed. They were also instructed about the lives, dignity and belongings of the residents of Kabul, and about not creating any danger or discomfort to them. 

The security of the capital was the responsibility of the government and they should guarantee it, Zabihullah added.

Reportedly, former President Hamid Karzai and Abdullah have formed a transitional committee to prepare the situation for the transfer of power to the Taliban.

A delegation of Taliban leaders is at the presidential palace in Kabul to negotiate the transfer of power, Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah told ABC News.

The Taliban entered the outskirts of the city early Sunday and fighters were seen gathering in the Kabul districts of Kampany and Barchi, a local reporter confirmed to ABC News. Officials told the Associated Press that there were also Taliban fighters in the districts of Kalakan, Qarabagh and Paghman.

A Taliban spokesperson told ABC News that Taliban leaders have ordered their men not to take over Kabul by force for now but to remain "at the gates" of the capital.

"Negotiations are underway with the other side to ensure that the transition process is completed safely and securely," the spokesperson said. "No one's head, property or honor will be harmed and the lives of Kabulis will not be in danger. The Islamic Emirate instructs all its forces to stand at the gates of Kabul and not try to enter the city."

The Taliban say they expect a "peaceful transition of power” in the next few days, according to Press TV.

"We are awaiting a peaceful transfer of power" as soon as possible, a Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said in an interview with BBC, adding the Taliban expected that to happen in a matter of days.

The spokesman added that the group is in talks with the Afghan government "for a peaceful surrender" of Kabul, calling on the leaders of Afghanistan "to work with us."

He emphasized that the group would protect the rights of women, who "will be allowed to leave homes alone," as well as freedoms for media workers and diplomats.

Shaheen said media would be allowed to criticize anyone but should not indulge in character assassination.

"We assure the [Afghan] people, particularly in the city of Kabul, that their properties, their lives are safe," the Taliban spokesman said.

He added that the group seeks to establish an inclusive Afghan government in which all Afghans will be represented.

The spokesman said the Taliban have no intension of taking revenge on anyone, adding that all those who have served the government and military will be forgiven.

The Taliban spokesman called on Afghan civilians to stay in their country and do not leave due to fear.

Meanwhile, Mohammad Naeem, a spokesman for the Taliban's political bureau, rejected as “mere rumor” reports that Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the political chief of Taliban, has travelled to Kabul, saying he is in the Qatari capital city of Doha.

Taliban forces ordered to enter Kabul to prevent looting after police desert posts 

The Taliban spokesman released a statement on Sunday afternoon, saying that the group has ordered its forces to enter Kabul to prevent looting after local police deserted their posts.

The statement by Zabiullah came shortly after it was announced that President Ghani had left the country.

Afghan delegation to meet Taliban in Qatar on Sunday

An Afghanistan peace negotiator said that a delegation representing the Afghan government, including Abdullah, will travel to Qatar the same day to meet with representatives of the Taliban.

Fawzi Koofi, a member of the Kabul negotiating team, confirmed to Reuters the delegation would meet with the Taliban in the Persian Gulf state after the group earlier entered Kabul.

A source familiar with the matter told Reuters the Afghan delegation and Taliban representatives would discuss a transition of power, adding that U.S. officials would also be involved.

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