The United States on Thursday issued a security alert on Thursday (August 12) urging its citizens to leave Afghanistan immediately, amid speedy Taliban gains in the war-torn country.
“The U.S. Embassy urges U.S. citizens to leave Afghanistan immediately using available commercial flight options,” a notice on the embassy’s website said. It said its ability to assist Americans in Afghanistan is “extremely limited” because of the security conditions and reduced staffing.
The notice also said that Americans who cannot afford to purchase airline tickets should contact the embassy. “If you are a US citizen and delaying your departure while you await an immigrant visa for a spouse or minor child, please contact us immediately.”
The Taliban has seized a number of key provincial capitals in Afghanistan in recent days and captured the strategic Afghan city of Ghazni on Thursday, situated just 150 km southwest of Kabul, as US troops are scheduled to complete their withdrawal from the country by Aug. 31 after more than 19 years.
“We spent over $1 trillion over 20 years. We trained and equipped with modern equipment over 300,000 Afghan forces. And Afghan leaders have to come together. We lost thousands, we lost to death and injury, thousands of American personnel. They’ve got to fight for themselves, fight for their nation,” Biden told reporters on Tuesday (Aug. 10), defending the U.S. troop withdrawal. “I think they’re beginning to realize they’ve got to come together politically at the top and, but we’re going to continue to keep our commitment. But I do not regret my decision,” he added.
Former President Donald Trump called the situation in Afghanistan “not acceptable” and claimed the U.S. withdrawal would be “much more successful” with him in office.
“If I were now president, the world would find that our withdrawal from Afghanistan would be a conditions-based withdrawal,” Trump claimed in a statement. “I personally had discussions with top Taliban leaders whereby they understood what they are doing now would not have been acceptable,” he said. “It would have been a much different and much more successful withdrawal, and the Taliban understood that better than anyone,” he said.
The Trump administration signed an agreement with the Taliban in Doha on February 29, 2020, committing to a pullout of US and NATO troops by May 1, 2021 in exchange for security guarantees
US President Joe Biden broke the agreement announcing that the pullout would go ahead but pushed the deadline back initially to September 11, 2021, before moving it up again to August 31.
Afghanistan has long been listed as a Level 4 – “Do Not Travel” nation by US government. The State Department already advised Americans against traveling to Afghanistan “due to crime, terrorism, civil unrest, kidnapping, armed conflict, and COVID-19.”
The Taliban have captured Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second biggest city, Reuters reported on Friday (August 13) citing officials. The Taliban also captured the the key city of Lashkar Gah in southern Afghanistan and Qala-e-Naw in the northwest, security officers said.
The Taliban also claimed to have seized the third-largest city of Herat in the west following days of intense fighting there. In response to the Taliban advances, the United States and Britain announced they will send troops to help evacuate their embassy staff in light of the current “security conditions”.
A U.S. defence official cited U.S. intelligence as saying the Taliban could isolate Kabul in 30 days and possibly take it within 90.
After 20 years of war Afghanistan falls into Taliban hands.
The Taliban seized Kabul without a fight on Sunday (August 15), prompting President Ashraf Ghani to announce his resignation and leave the country. Ghani attributed his decision to the desire to avoid bloodshed.
Mohammad Naeem,the spokesman for the Taliban’s political office, told Al Jazeera the “war is over in Afghanistan”.
“We have reached what we were seeking, which is the freedom of our country and the independence of our people,” he said. “We will not allow anyone to use our lands to target anyone, and we do not want to harm others.”
The US is sending another 1,000 troops, directly to Kabul, bringing US military numbers expected in Afghanistan up to 6,000 due to the deteriorating security situation in an attempt to execute the safe withdrawal of US nationals and Afghan support staff.
The Stars & Stripes flag was lowered at the US embassy in Kabul and the evacuation of the compound was completed.
Meanwhile, the Russian Ambassador to Afghanistan said there are currently no threats to the Russian Embassy in Kabul, so the diplomats will continue their work, as usual, RIA Novosti reported on Sunday.
Many other nations were scrambling to evacuate their diplomats, citizens and some local Afghan staff.
Commercial flights at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport have stopped. Footage filmed there showed scenes of chaos and desperation as hundreds of Kabul residents were trying to flee the advancing Taliban.
— AFP News Agency (@AFP) August 16, 2021
China says it is willing to develop “friendly relations” with the Taliban.
“China respects the right of the Afghan people to independently determine their own destiny and is willing to continue to develop … friendly and cooperative relations with Afghanistan,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters.
The Taliban previously governed the Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001, imposing a strict interpretation of Islamic sharia law before being ousted and launching an insurgency.
The United Nations Security Council will discuss the situation in Afghanistan at 10am New York time on Monday.
With reporting by Reuters, Washington Examiner, The Hill, AFP, Al Jazeera, CNN, RIA Novosti