Taliban and Afghan government in talks as the militant group surrounds the capital of Kabul

The talks signal a likely end, or transformation, of the embattled government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, and puts the militant group closer to the precipice of control over the entire country.

The US drawdown of its forces after nearly two decades in Afghanistan has opened a clear path for the Taliban to take on and defeat the country’s security forces. Many key cities fell with little to no resistance.

US President Joe Biden has sent some 5,000 troops to carry out and secure a major operation to evacuate American embassy staff and, later, other US citizens living in the country. The operation initially involved 3,000 troops, but on Saturday, Biden boosted that number as the extraordinary speed by the Taliban toward the capital became apparent.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid 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. He appealed for calm and tried to assure Kabul’s residents that any transition would be “peaceful.”

The group was “assuring all the banks, businesses, money exchange shops that they will be safe and protected under the Taliban and nobody would touch or bother anyone in Kabul,” he said.

“All the wealthy people, the businessmen, they should be safe and protected. None of the Taliban are allowed to go to any houses or conduct searches on businesses and the Islamic Emirate gives them full protection and they should be safe and not worry.”

He also said those who had fought against the Taliban had nothing to fear.

“The people who are trying to fight against us, we suggest to them not to do so and they will be fully protected. They can leave as ordinary people.”

Acting Afghan Interior Minister Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal said Sunday that Kabul would not be attacked and that the government 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.

If the country falls entirely to the Taliban, it would make for a bleak end to a war that has cost many lives and dollars over nearly 20 years with little progress in building a sovereign state.

This is a developing story. More to come…


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