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The Taliban is approaching Kabul, the US is preparing to evacuate thousands of people

The Taliban captured more major cities on Friday (August 13). The group is moving toward complete control of Afghanistan, only about 30 miles from the capital, Kabul. The United States is preparing to airlift thousands of people out of Kabul.

The first US Marine unit in charge of the evacuation has landed at a civilian airport in Kabul, Afghanistan’s largest city and one of the few cities still in government hands, after the Taliban gained control of the sacred land of Kandahar, the country’s second largest city.

The scale and speed of the Taliban attack has shocked Afghans and the US-led coalition that has poured trillions of dollars into the country since toppling the Taliban regime in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. almost 20 years.

Days before the final US withdrawal from Afghanistan at the behest of President Joe Biden, the country’s soldiers, units, and even entire divisions surrendered and turned over to the Taliban in many ways. means of transport and military equipment to fuel the rapid advance of this force.

Pul-e-Alam, the capital of Loghar province, was the latest city to fall on Friday (August 13). After this victory, the Taliban were only about 50km (30 miles) from the capital Kabul.

Khairddin Logari, a resident of the capital, uttered an exclamation over the chaos to AFP: “We don’t know what’s going on.”

British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said on Friday that London’s hasty withdrawal after US President Biden ordered the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan was “a mistake”. .

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged “not to turn his back on Afghanistan”, but he acknowledged that the major powers have little power to impose a solution to the conflict in the country.

Totally lost

On Friday, officials and residents in Kandahar told AFP government troops had pulled back en masse to a military base outside the southern city.

A Taliban spokesman celebrated the victory on Twitter: “Kandahar has completely fallen. The jihadists (Mujahideen) have come to Martyrs Square.” This square is a landmark in Kandahar.

Hours later, the Taliban announced that they had also gained control of Lashkar Gah, the capital of neighboring Helmand province.

A security source confirmed the city’s fall, telling AFP that Afghan troops and government officials had evacuated Lashkar Gah after reaching a local ceasefire agreement with the country. warriors.

On Friday, in Herat, the Taliban arrested Ismail Khan, a longtime warlord of the province. He, along with his militia fighters, helped command the defense of the provincial capital of Herat.

A spokesman for the warlord later confirmed that Mr Khan had been allowed to return to his residence after negotiations with the rebels.

Helicopters flew back and forth between the Kabul airport and the vast US diplomatic compound in a heavily guarded green zone. This image is reminiscent of the scene 46 years ago when helicopters evacuated Americans from Saigon, signaling the end of the Vietnam War.

President Biden ordered US troops to Kabul airport to evacuate about 30,000 embassy staff as well as Afghans and their families, who fear reprisal for serving as interpreters or during the operation. other roles in support of the United States.

Most of the 3,000 troops will be in place by Sunday, and “will be able to evacuate thousands of people a day out of Afghanistan,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.

“Capacity [to evacuate] will not be an issue,” he stressed to reporters.

The capital, Kabul, is “not currently where the threat is imminent,” Kirby said, but the Taliban appear to be implementing a strategy of isolating the city to force the Afghan government to surrender.

The UK is also evacuating nationals of its own and other countries including Denmark, Norway and Germany, and has announced that their embassies in Kabul will be temporarily closed or reduced operations due to concerns about the situation. security concerns.

Kandahar is calm

Insurgents have taken over more than half of Afghanistan’s provincial capitals in the past week and besieged Mazar-i-Sharif, the country’s largest city in the north and a traditionally anti-Taliban stronghold. The city is now one of the few remaining cities that have not yet fallen into the hands of the Taliban.

In Kandahar, resident Abdul Nafi told AFP the city remained calm after government forces withdrew early on Friday.

“I went out this morning and I saw the white Taliban flag in almost every square of the city,” he said. I think it could be the first day of Eid.”

Pro-Taliban social media accounts have flouted the booty of the insurgents, posting pictures of armored vehicles, heavy weapons, and even drones being hijacked by the militants. taken by the Taliban at abandoned military bases.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres continued to call for a diplomatic solution to the situation in Afghanistan, adding that he was “deeply concerned” by reports of poor treatment of women in Afghanistan. areas occupied by the Taliban. The Taliban imposed an extremely austere Islamic regime on Afghanistan during their rule from 1996 to 2001.

“It is horrifying and heartbreaking to see reports that the hard-won rights of Afghan girls and women are being taken away,” Mr. Guterres lamented.

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