President Ashraf Ghani fled Afghanistan on Sunday, a top official said, effectively ceding power to the Taliban, who have entered the capital Kabul to seal a nationwide military victory in just 10 days.
A spokesman for the Islamist insurgents confirmed they had entered multiple districts of the city to “ensure security.”
Three senior Taliban sources also told AFP that the insurgents had taken control of the presidential palace and that a meeting on security in the capital was under way.
In just over a week, the Taliban have carried out a lightning sweep of the country, with troops incapable of holding onto territory without the support of the US military, which is finalizing its withdrawal after 20 years in the country.
“God hold him accountable, and the people will have their judgement.”
Abdullah gave no indication where Ghani was going, but leading Afghan media group Tolo news suggested he was heading to Tajikistan.
Ghani’s departure from office was one of the key demands of the Taliban in months of peace talks with the government, but he had stubbornly clung to power.
The insurgents said they want a “peaceful transfer” within the next few days, two decades after US-led forces toppled their regime in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Earlier Sunday, the group ordered its fighters not to enter the capital, saying the remnants of the government’s forces were responsible for security.
But later, a spokesman tweeted that Taliban forces had entered several districts.
“Military units of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan have entered Kabul city to ensure security,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted, adding that “their advance is continuing normally”.
President Joe Biden ordered the deployment of an additional 1,000 US troops to help secure the emergency evacuation from Kabul of embassy employees and thousands of Afghans who worked for American forces and now fear Taliban reprisals.
That was on top of the 3,000 American soldiers deployed in recent days, and 1,000 left in the country after Biden announced in May that the final withdrawal of the US military presence in Afghanistan would be completed by August 31.
Isolated Ghani’s government was left completely isolated on Sunday after the insurgents overran the anti-Taliban northern stronghold of Mazar-i-Sharif and the eastern city of Jalalabad.
For the tens of thousands who have sought refuge in Kabul in recent weeks, the overwhelming mood was one of apprehension and fear.
“I am worried there will be a lot of fighting here,” one doctor who arrived with his 35-strong family from Kunduz told AFP, asking not to be named.
“I would rather return home, where I know it has stopped.”