The US is negotiating with the Taliban to get Americans still in Kabul to safety but it’s still unclear how many US citizens are still on the ground, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a press conference Tuesday.
‘Our commanders at the airport are in communication with Taliban commanders on the ground outside the airport,’ Kirby confirmed.
He declined to give details of those conversations but said they were happening ‘multiple times a day’ and that there were no ‘hostile interactions’ from the Taliban on American people or operations.
Marine Major General Hank Taylor confirmed that 165 Americans were evacuated on Monday, along with ‘a mix of SIV applicants and third-country nationals’ totaling 700 people.
‘I don’t have the number of [people] waiting for a flight right now,’ Taylor said.
When asked about the whereabouts of Americans who might be trapped in Afghanistan anywhere outside the airport, he replied, ‘I can’t speak to the locations or whereabouts of every single American throughout the country and their desires to stay or to go.’
He confirmed on CNN that the number of Americans could be anywhere between 5,000 and 10,000.
Taliban fighters are now controlling the entry to the airport and have seized all of the access points leading to it in Kabul. It forces NATO troops to rely on them to allow evacuees into the airport to board flights
Afghan security guards try and maintain order as hundreds of people gather outside the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021. There are now ‘three rings’ around the airport and the Taliban controls the outer ring, Charles
US soldiers stand guard along a perimeter at the international airport in Kabul on August 16th
Kirby told reporters he ‘won’t begin to speculate’ on if US troops back in the country to assist with the chaotic evacuation effort will stay past Joe Biden’s August 31st withdrawal deadline.
‘That’s a decision that the commander in chief would have to make,’ he said.
Kirby said it was possible to get 5,000 to 9,000 people out of the country per day – but said he ‘couldn’t guarantee a certain number by a certain day.’
Taylor said the US would have 4,000 troops on the ground by the end of the day.
Republican Senator Ted Cruz blasted the Biden administration’s hesitancy to give out details in an interview with Fox Business.
‘Thousands of Americans remain in Afghanistan and it appears the Biden administration had no reasonable plan to safely allow those Americans to leave,’ he said on Tuesday. ‘This is a military failure – a failure in planning, a failure in execution – that falls squarely on the president.’
Ted Cruz lashed out against the Biden administration’s evacuation efforts
French and Afghan nationals line up to board a French military transport plane at the Kabul airport on August 17th
There are still thousands of Afghan nationals and an unknown number of Americans still on the ground in Afghanistan
Kirby defended the US evacuation effort on MSNBC on Tuesday morning and said the government has been planning for non-military evacuations since at least May.
He added that ‘no plan survives first contact’ when conceding the ‘graphic nature’ of the scenes in Kabul.
It’s unclear why only 700 people were spread across the seven C-17 jets that flew out of the region overnight, when one of the same jets carried 640 Afghan nationals in a single load on Sunday.
The crew decided to take off after the nationals stormed the jet, desperate to escape while they could.
The lack of answers is growing increasingly worrisome given the fact the Taliban has claimed it will give just two weeks of ‘grace period’ peace to allow the US to remove its people. The terror group now controls Kabul.
The harrowing scene at the airport on Monday included thousands rushing on to the runway as a US Air Force C-17 cargo jet took off.
Frantic Afghan nationals jumped onto the plane’s fuselage in the hope that it would carry them to safety.
Shortly after it took off, three were filmed falling from the aircraft to their deaths.
Three were run over by the jet’s wheels on the tarmac.
Taliban fighters stand guard at a checkpoint near the US embassy that was previously manned by American troops
Desperate Afghans tried to cling on to a US military jet on Monday as it made its way out of Kabul. Three died falling from the planes’ wheels
MONDAY: There was mayhem at the airport on Monday as US troops fired shots in the air and flew helicopters to disperse crowds
Kirby warned Monday morning on CNN that any military aggression from the Taliban would be met with a forceful response.
‘Any attack on our people or on our operations at the airport will be met with a swift and forceful unambiguous response,’ Kirby said on New Day.
Kirby said that extended beyond Americans as the U.S. is trying to also pull Afghan translators and other allies out of the deteriorating country.
The spokesman said that the U.S. would attack the Taliban if militants messed with ‘people or operations at the airport.’
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby warned Monday morning on CNN that any military aggression from the Taliban would be met with a forceful response
Kirby also said ‘security is much better’ at Kabul’s airport after Monday’s tense scene.
He said that another 1,000 U.S. troops had landed and once everything is up and running about 5,000 to 9,000 people could be airlifted out of Afghanistan by the military each day.
Kirby guessed that there were between 5,000 and 10,000 Americans still in the country and the U.S. was clearing space for 22,000 Afghan refugees at three military bases, with the ability to bring in more.
‘If we have to go more, higher than that, we’ll certainly do that,’ Kirby said.
CNN’s John Berman pointed out that the thousands of people Kirby mentioned weren’t all at the airport, some were at their homes.
‘What is the plan to get these people to the airport?’ Berman said.
Kirby said the military piece of the withdrawal was security the airport, adding that the Defense Department was ‘working hand and glove’ with the State Department, who were processing the people so they could exit Afghanistan.
‘Right now though, I don’t want to set the expectation that we are equipped and able to go out into the countryside and physically move people into Kabul,’ Kirby warned.
Berman then asked, ‘If they can’t get to the airport, what does it matter if you have the capabilities to get them out from the airport?’
‘John I understand that, and we all understand that the security situation in Kabul is not ideal,’ Kirby replied.
On Monday, Kirby insisted the Kabul airport chaos earlier in the day did not constitute a failure.
‘I would take issue with your designation of this operation at the airport as a failure,’ he told CNN‘s Barbara Starr during an afternoon press briefing after she pointed out how one A C-17 took off carrying 640 Afghan refugees.
Hundreds of people gather outside the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on Tuesday
Eight people were also reportedly killed, including three who tried to stowaway on a departing flight and fell from the sky.
The Pentagon refused to confirm those figures.
Instead, Kirby argued that the Defense Department planned for a number of scenarios as the U.S. exited Afghanistan after a 20-year deployment.
‘Could we have predicted every single scenario and every single breach around the perimeter of the airport with only a couple of thousand troops on the ground?’ Kirby mused. ‘Plans are terrific and we take them seriously, but they are not and never have been perfectly predictive.’
Both President Joe Biden and Kirby admitted that the U.S. was surprised by the quick work the Taliban made in taking control of the war-torn country.
‘Now as we talked about here many times, it happened very fast,’ Kirby said from the Pentagon. ‘And one of the things we couldn’t anticipate and didn’t anticipate was the degree to which Afghan forces capitulated, sometimes without a fight.’
At Hamid Karzai International Airport, there was a stampede of thousands of people – both stranded foreign nationals and Afghan civilians – desperately trying to escape.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby insisted Monday that the chaos at Kabul’s airport earlier in the day did not constitute a failure. ‘I would take issue with your designation of this operation at the airport as a failure,’ Kirby told CNN’s Barbara Starr at an afternoon briefing
A C-17 jet carrying 640 Afghan refugees that left Kabul on Sunday night as the Taliban claimed the city. The flight landed in Qatar. The refugees ran up the half-open ramp while US forces were preparing for take-off, according to an unnamed defense official cited by Defense One on Monday. At least one other C-17 has departed the area
The airport is the last place in the city that is being guarded by NATO troops.
Thousands of Afghan nationals have rushed there in the hopes of being saved along with the foreigners being flown out, but the chaotic rescue operation collapsed on Monday as troops struggled to control the crowds.
General Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr, the head of the Pentagon’s Central Command, met with Taliban representatives in Qatar on Sunday and convinced them to let the US evacuate its citizens and any interpreters and translators it plans to without interference.
It remains unclear how NATO troops will organize the evacuation of Afghan refugees or even get themselves out given the diabolical situation that unfolded earlier Monday.
The Pentagon said 2,500 troops were moved into Kabul within the last 72 hours.
By the end of Monday, 3,000 to 3,500 were expected to be on the ground.
It’s unclear how many American civilians are there, and how many Afghan translators and interpreters are to be flown out.
Embassy officials were moved to the airport with the Pentagon saying they were ‘safe’ and preparing for departure.
Three Afghan nationals were run over by a jet’s wheels on the tarmac amid the scenes of chaos at the airport.
Kirby couldn’t confirm the deaths – or the reporting that there would be an investigation, but added ‘it wouldn’t surpise me in the least that commanders would be taking a look at what happened this morning in respect to the C-17.’
‘On that video footage we’ve all seen of something falling off the wing. I don’t have an update for you in terms of specific validity of that. We’re obviously just as interested in you in learning more about what happened there,’ Kirby also said.
American troops halted evacuation flights for 90 minutes afterwards while they cleared the airfield, which had become overrun with thousands of Afghan nationals.
They used apache helicopters and fired warning shots into the crowds to try to control them.
Outside the walls of the airport, shots from Taliban fighters rang out.
A US soldier points his gun towards and bellows at an Afghan civilian at the Kabul airport on Monday. Two armed Afghans have been killed by American troops at the airport
Footage from Hamad Karzai airport showed hundreds of people running alongside – and in front of – a US Air Force plane preparing to take off
Desperate Afghan nationals tried to run onto RCH 885 as it took off from the airfield on Monday. Some were crushed by the C-17’s wheels and others clung to the fuselage as it took off
An apache helicopter clears the airfield at Kabul on Monday after thousands of Afghan nationals ran onto it in a desperate attempt to get on an evacuation flight
Afghan people climb atop a plane as they wait at the Kabul airport in Kabul on Monday
A little girl is thrown over the wall of the airport on Monday as the Taliban started moving through the city of Kabul. The airport is the last part of the city being defended by US troops – more are expected there later today to try to secure it
An Afghan child walks near abandoned military uniforms at Kabul airport on Monday after the Taliban took control of the city
Desperate Afghan families trying to escape Kabul scale the walls of the airport on Monday
FALL OF KABUL: A TIMELINE OF THE TALIBAN’S FAST ADVANCE AFTER 40 YEARS OF CONFLICT
Feb. 29, 2020 Trump negotiates deal with the Taliban setting U.S. withdrawal date for May 1, 2021
Nov. 17, 2020 Pentagon announces it will reduce troop levels to 2500 in Afghanistan
Jan. 15, 2020 Inspector general reveals ‘hubris and mendacity’ of U.S. efforts in Afghanistan
Feb 3. 2021 Afghan Study Group report warns against withdrawing ‘irresponsibly’
March Military command makes last-ditch effort to talk Biden out of withdrawal
April 14 Biden announces withdrawal will be completed by Sept. 11
May 4 – Taliban fighters launch a major offensive on Afghan forces in southern Helmand province. They also attack in at least six other provinces
May 11 – The Taliban capture Nerkh district just outside the capital Kabul as violence intensifies across the country
June 7 – Senior government officials say more than 150 Afghan soldiers are killed in 24 hours as fighting worsens. They add that fighting is raging in 26 of the country’s 34 provinces
June 22 – Taliban fighters launch a series of attacks in the north of the country, far from their traditional strongholds in the south. The UN envoy for Afghanistan says they have taken more than 50 of 370 districts
July 2 – The U.S. evacuates Bagram Airfield in the middle of the night
July 5 – The Taliban say they could present a written peace proposal to the Afghan government as soon as August
July 21 – Taliban insurgents control about a half of the country’s districts, according to the senior U.S. general, underlining the scale and speed of their advance
July 25 – The United States vows to continue to support Afghan troops “in the coming weeks” with intensified airstrikes to help them counter Taliban attacks
July 26 – The United Nations says nearly 2,400 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in May and June in escalating violence, the highest number for those months since records started in 2009
Aug. 6 – Zaranj in the south of the country becomes the first provincial capital to fall to the Taliban in years. Many more are to follow in the ensuing days, including the prized city of Kunduz in the north
Aug. 13 – Pentagon insists Kabul is not under imminent threat
Aug. 14 – The Taliban take the major northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif and, with little resistance, Pul-e-Alam, capital of Logar province just 70 km (40 miles) south of Kabul. The United States sends more troops to help evacuate its civilians from Kabul as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani says he is consulting with local and international partners on next steps
Aug. 15 – The Taliban take the key eastern city of Jalalabad without a fight, effectively surrounding Kabul
Taliban insurgents enter Kabul, an interior ministry official says, as the United States evacuate diplomats from its embassy by helicopter
Afghanistan’s representative to the UN’s security council Ghulam M. Isaczai said ‘there are already reports of target killings and looting in the city,’ at a meeting of the council on Monday.
‘Kabul residents are reported that the Taliban have already started house-to-house searches in some neighborhoods, registering names and looking for people in their target list,’ he added.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was ‘particularly concerned’ by accounts of human rights violations against the women and girls of Afghanistan who fear a return to the darkest days’ in the 1990s when the Taliban ruled and barred girls for getting an education and imposed draconian measures on women.
It’s unclear now who America will save from the chaos aside from US citizens and anyone who worked alongside them.
Biden’s National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan did a series of TV interviews on Monday where he said evacuation flights were ongoing, but he skirted criticism for the disaster and said: ‘When push came to shove, [the Afghan forces] decided not to step up and fight for their country.’
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has also come under fire for hightailing out of the country last night, in a helicopter full of cash, according to the Russian embassy. His whereabouts remain unknown.
The Taliban declared victory from the presidential palace on Sunday following a blistering advance across the country. Experts and lawmakers have for months warned the Biden administrations that this was exactly what would happen if they continued with the hasty retreat and entrusted the country to the Afghan National Army.
One of the terror chieftains proclaimed from the palace, ‘Praise God, I was in Guantanamo for eight years’, as he sat at the president’s table surrounded by henchmen strapped with AK-47s.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the U.S. decision to withdraw had ‘accelerated’ the crisis that risked creating ‘a breeding ground for terror.’
However, the Taliban has been on a charm offensive, pledging that no harm will come to any foreign citizens or embassy staff as it seeks formal recognition from the international community.
Almost all major checkpoints in Kabul were under Taliban control by Monday morning and Afghanistan’s Civil Aviation Authority issued an advisory saying the ‘civilian side’ of the airport had been ‘closed until further notice’ and that the military controlled the airspace.
Taliban officials said everyone would be allowed to return home from Kabul airport if they decide to stay in the country and promised civilians would not be harmed. The group previously said westerners would be allowed to leave the country but that Afghans would be barred from departing.
US troops are guarding the airport and have taken over air traffic control, but all non-military flights are grounded. Early Monday morning, flight-tracking data showed no immediate commercial flights over the country.
In the capital, a tense calm set in, with most people hiding in their homes as the Taliban deployed fighters at major intersections.
There were scattered reports of looting and armed men knocking on doors and gates, and there was less traffic than usual on eerily quiet streets. Fighters could be seen searching vehicles at one of the city’s main squares.
Many fear chaos, after the Taliban freed thousands of prisoners and the police simply melted away, or a return to the kind of brutal rule the Taliban imposed when it was last in power.
They raced to Kabul’s international airport, where the ‘civilian side’ was closed until further notice, according to Afghanistan’s Civil Aviation Authority. The military was put in control of the airspace.
Massouma Tajik, a 22-year-old data analyst, described scenes of panic at the airport, where she was hoping to board an evacuation flight.
Satellite images show the number of people on the tarmac at Kabul airport desperately trying to get onto flights out of Afghanistan on Monday
Thousands of Afghan nationals rushed to the airport on foot on Monday to try to get on evacuation flights as the Taliban took over
The US Embassy has been evacuated and the American flag lowered, with diplomats relocating to the airport in scenes reminiscent of the evacuation of the embassy of Saigon in 1975. Other Western countries have also closed their missions and are flying out staff and civilians after the Taliban walked into Kabul’s presidential palace
In a stunning rout, the Taliban seized nearly all of Afghanistan in just over a week, despite the billions of dollars spent by the US and NATO over nearly two decades to build up Afghan security forces
Inside one of the US Air Force jets that took off from Kabul on Sunday after the Taliban took control of the city
Those on board the plane appeared to be US nationals. It’s unclear how many remain at the airport waiting to be flown out
US soldiers rest as Afghan people (not pictured) wait to leave the Kabul airport in Kabul on August 16, 2021, after a stunningly swift end to Afghanistan’s 20-year war, as thousands of people mobbed the city’s airport trying to flee the group’s feared hardline brand of Islamist rule
Afghan nationals wait on one of the many grounded commercial aircrafts at Kabul airport on Monday in the hope of being flown out
A volunteer carries an injured man on the tarmac at the airport in Kabul on August 16. The chaos unfolded on Monday as thousands rushed to the airport in a desperate attempt to flee the Taliban after the country’s 20 year civil war
There are thousands of Afghan nationals at the airport desperately waiting to be put on any flight out of the city
Thousands of Afghans rush to the Hamid Karzai International Airport as they try to flee the Afghan capital of Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 16, 2021
People climb a barbed wire wall to enter the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan August 16, 2021, in this still image taken from a video
US soldiers stand guard as desperate Afghans try to board flights at Hamid Karzai International Airport
Thousands of civilians rush towards one of the last military planes leaving Kabul (left) the airport was teeming with desperate civilians trying to flee the Taliban (right)
Video posted later appeared to show residents collecting the bodies of three stowaways, who reportedly fell from an airborne plane, from a roof in Kabul
Footage showed desperate Afghans trying to climb onto grounded planes at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai airport after the Taliban swept the city
Afghans crowd at the tarmac of the Kabul airport on August 16, 2021, to flee the country as the Taliban were in control of Afghanistan after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country and conceded the insurgents had won the 20-year war
Desperate Afghan civilians attempt to clamber over the barbed wire-topped wall into Hamid Karzai International Airport on Monday
Men climb over a wall into Hamid Karzai International Airport in scenes reminiscent of the chaos in Saigon in 1975
US troops are guarding the airport and have taken over air traffic control, but all non-military flights are grounded. Soldiers fired warning shots in the air to prevent hundreds of civilians running onto the tarmac, a US official said
US troops fired shots into the air at Kabul airport today as desperate Afghans climbed up the outside of airbridges trying to flee as the Taliban took control of Afghanistan
Video posted social media showed hundreds of people trying to climb the outside of airbridges to board commercial liners grounded in Hamad Karzai airport
At least five people have been killed at Kabul airport as thousands of people tried desperately to get on flights out of Afghanistan amid increasingly chaotic scenes. Witnesses said it was not clear whether the victims were killed by gunshots or in a stampede
Taliban fighters were seen inside the Afghan parliament on Monday after officials promised civilians would not be harmed and announced everyone would be allowed to return home from Kabul airport if they decided to stay in the country
Victorious Taliban commander claims he ‘spent eight years in Guantanamo Bay’ in triumphant speech from Kabul palace
A Taliban commander claimed he spent eight years in Guantanamo Bay in a triumphant speech from inside the Presidential Palace in Kabul on Sunday as the militants declared an Islamic state of Afghanistan.
Taliban fighters marched into the ancient palace on Sunday and demanded a ‘peaceful transfer of power’ as the capital city descended into chaos, with US helicopters evacuating diplomats from the embassy in scenes echoing the 1975 Fall of Saigon which followed the Vietnam War.
The Al-Jazeera news channel livestreamed the press conference from inside the palace, which showed a group of Taliban fighters sitting at the president’s desk before a fighter claimed he was a former inmate of the US-controlled Guantanamo Bay detention centre in Cuba.
A Taliban commander claimed he spent eight years in Guantanamo Bay in a victory speech from inside the Presidential Palace in Kabul as the militants declared an Islamic state of Afghanistan
‘Praise God, I was in Guantanamo for eight years,’ the man told the broadcaster as henchmen with AK-47s stood around him.
Established by George W Bush in 2002, suspected terrorists have been detained without trial and tortured at the facility. Donald Trump signed an executive order to keep the centre open indefinitely in 2018, while in February the Biden administration vowed to shut Guantanamo down.
Various reports said that the commander was either Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir or Gholam Ruhani.
Both of the men were held at Guantanamo Bay and are believed to have returned to the Taliban top brass after being released.
After waiting six hours, she heard shots from outside, where a crowd of men and women were trying to climb aboard a plane. She said U.S. troops sprayed gas and fired into the air to disperse the crowds after people scaled the walls and swarmed onto the tarmac. Gunfire could be heard in the voice messages she sent to The Associated Press.
Shafi Arifi, who had a ticket to travel to Uzbekistan on Sunday, was unable to board her plane because it was packed with people who had raced across the tarmac and climbed aboard, with no police or airport staff in sight.
‘There was no room for us to stand,’ said the 24-year-old. ‘Children were crying, women were shouting, young and old men were so angry and upset, no one could hear each other. There was no oxygen to breathe.’
After another woman fainted and was carried off the plane, Arifi gave up and went back home.
Meanwhile, refugees have been massing at the borders as people desperately try to flee Afghanistan before the Taliban’s brutal rules are implemented, with pictures from the country’s border with Pakistan showing hundreds of people queuing in an attempt to leave.
‘Today is a great day for the Afghan people and the mujahideen. They have witnessed the fruits of their efforts and their sacrifices for 20 years,’ Mohammad Naeem, the spokesman for the Taliban’s political office, told Al Jazeera TV. ‘Thanks to God, the war is over in the country.’
Taliban members are seen near Hamid Karzai International Airport as thousands of Afghans rush to flee the Afghan capital of Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 16, 2021
A Taliban fighter stands guard at the Massoud Square in Kabul on August 16, 2021
A member of Taliban forces inspects the area outside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul
US soldiers stand guard as in the background Afghan people wait at the Kabul airport
Smiling Taliban fighters are seen on the back of a vehicle in Kabul on Monday
A father leads his family towards the airport as crowds of people try to escape Afghanistan on Monday
Hundreds of Afghans desperately scaled the walls of Hamid Karzai international airport in Kabul as they try to flee the country
US troops are guarding the airport and have taken over air traffic control, but all non-military flights are grounded. Early Monday morning, flight-tracking data showed no immediate commercial flights over the country even as thousands of Afghans flooded Kabul airport
Desperate civilians try and get into Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Monday after the Taliban took over the country
Afghans crowd at the tarmac of the Kabul airport on Monday as American Humvees standby
President Ghani fled the country on Sunday night as the insurgents encircled the capital – saying he wanted to avoid bloodshed – capping a military victory that saw them capture all cities in just 10 days.
In a Facebook post, Ghani said he had left the country to avoid clashes with the Taliban that would endanger millions of Kabul residents. Some social media users branded Ghani, who did not disclose his location, a coward for leaving them in chaos. Al Jazeera reported he had flown to Uzbekistan, citing his personal bodyguard.
‘The Taliban have won with the judgement of their swords and guns, and are now responsible for the honour, property and self-preservation of their countrymen,’ Ghani said after fleeing.
Taliban officials said they had received no reports of any clashes anywhere in the country: ‘The situation is peaceful,’ one official said. The Taliban controlled 90 percent of state buildings and fighters had been told to prevent any damage, the official added.
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who fought in the Soviet-Afghan War during the 1980s and helped ex-chief Mohammad Omar create the Taliban in 1994, has already been installed as the head of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, according to reports in the Arab world.
Video from Afghanistan’s parliament building showed Taliban fighters entering the main chamber today. The grainy footage showed fighters carrying weapons sitting at a table at the head of the chamber under the government’s seal, with some smiling and posing for photographs.
Ghani fled from the country on Sunday as the Islamists entered Kabul virtually unopposed, saying he wanted to avoid bloodshed.
Desperate Afghans were seen chasing US military transport aircraft as the evacuation flights took off from Kabul airport on Monday
US soldiers take up their positions as they secure the airport in Kabul after the Taliban walked into the capital, forcing President Ashraf Ghani to flee
Thousands of Afghans gathered at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai airport, but all commercial services have been suspended, with only military flights leaving the country as the UK, US and other western countries repatriate their citizens
There were chaotic scenes at Kabul International Airport on Sunday night as thousands of Afghan residents rushed onto the tarmac
Potential passengers can be seen crowding the tarmac at Kabul airport in Afghanistan with people desperate to leave the country any way they can
A U.S. Chinook helicopter flies near the U.S. Embassy as smoke rises in Kabul, Afghanistan, late on Sunday night
Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen said in a message on Twitter their fighters were under strict orders not to harm anyone.
‘Life, property and honour of none shall be harmed but must be protected by the mujahideen,’ he said.
Earlier, Mohammad Naeem, the spokesman for the Taliban’s political office, told Al Jazeera TV, the Afghan people and the Taliban had witnessed the fruits of their efforts and sacrifices over 20 years.
‘Thanks to God, the war is over,’ he said.
It took the Taliban just over a week to seize control of the country after a lightning sweep that ended in Kabul as government forces, trained for years and equipped by the United States and others at a cost of billions of dollars, melted away.
Al Jazeera broadcast footage of what it said were Taliban commanders in the presidential palace with dozens of armed fighters.
Naeem said the form of the new regime in Afghanistan would be made clear soon, adding the Taliban did not want to live in isolation and calling for peaceful international relations.
The militants sought to project a more moderate face, promising to respect women’s rights and protect both foreigners and Afghans.
Many Afghans fear the Taliban will return to past harsh practices in their imposition of sharia religious law. During their rule, women could not work and punishments such as stoning, whipping and hanging were administered.
Both the United Nations and the United States said last week they had received reports that Taliban fighters were executing surrendering government soldiers.
Taliban officials said they had received no reports of any clashes anywhere in the country: ‘The situation is peaceful,’ one said, adding the Taliban controlled 90% of state buildings and fighters had been told to prevent any damage.
Central Kabul streets were largely deserted early on a sunny Monday as waking residents pondered their future.
‘I’m in a complete state of shock,’ said Sherzad Karim Stanekzai, who spent the night in his carpet shop to guard it. ‘I know there will be no foreigners, no international people who will now come to Kabul.’
People thronged to the airport from late on Sunday with hundreds wandering on the runways in the dark, pulling luggage and jostling for a place on one of the last commercial flights to leave before U.S. forces took over air traffic control.
Dozens of men tried to clamber onto an overhead departure gangway to board a plane while hundreds of others milled about, a video posted on social media showed.
U.S. forces gave up their big military base at Bagram, some 60 km north of Kabul, several weeks ago, leaving Kabul’s airport their only way out, to the anger of many Afghans.
‘The Americans have no right to hold the airport for their own use, they could have used their own base to take people out,’ said one person trying to leave.
There was the prospect of chaos in the skies over Afghanistan too. Its civil aviation authority advised transit aircraft to reroute saying its airspace was uncontrolled.
The Pentagon on Sunday authorized another 1,000 troops to help evacuate U.S. citizens and Afghans who worked for them, expanding its security presence on the ground to almost 6,000 troops within the next 48 hours.
A U.S. State Department spokesperson said early on Monday that all embassy personnel, including Ambassador Ross Wilson, had been transferred to Kabul airport, mostly by helicopter, to await evacuation and the American flag had been lowered and removed from the embassy compound.
Western nations, including France, Germany and New Zealand said they were working to get citizens as well as some Afghan employees out.
In a Facebook post, Ghani said he had left the country to avoid clashes with the Taliban that would endanger millions of Kabul residents. Some social media users branded Ghani, who did not disclose his location, a coward for leaving them in chaos.
In Washington, opponents of President Joe Biden’s decision to end America’s longest war, launched after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, said the chaos was caused by a failure of leadership.
Biden has faced rising domestic criticism after sticking to a plan, initiated by his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, to end the U.S. military mission by Aug. 31.
Britain’s defence minister said British and NATO forces would not be returning to fight the Taliban.
‘That’s not on the cards,’ Ben Wallace told Sky News.