Afghanistan president says the Taliban take key town near Kabul in urgent discussions

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Key town near Kabul in urgent discussions

As Taliban fighters drew closer to Kabul, capturing a crucial town south of the capital that is one of the city’s gates, Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani said he was in urgent meetings with local authorities and foreign partners.

“As your President, my priority is to prevent more instability, violence, and displacement of my people,” Ghani said in a brief broadcast address as troops from the United States and other countries rushed in to assist in the evacuation of embassies.

Ghani said “re-integration of the security and defense forces is our priority, and substantial actions are being made in this area” in response to a Taliban demand that he quit for any talks on a ceasefire and a political settlement.

According to a local provincial council member, he spoke immediately after the militants grabbed Pul-e-Alam, the capital of Logar province, which lies 70 kilometers (40 miles) south of Kabul.

The Taliban did not face much opposition, according to a member of the provincial council who spoke on the condition of anonymity to Reuters.

The rebels grabbed control of the city, which is a major staging base for a possible assault on Kabul, a day after they took control of the country’s second and third largest cities.

According to a US official, American forces have begun flying into Kabul to assist in the evacuation of embassy workers and other civilians.

Two Marine battalions and one infantry battalion, totaling roughly 3,000 troops, are expected to arrive in Kabul by Sunday evening, according to the Pentagon.

“They have arrived, and they will continue to arrive till tomorrow,” the official said on condition of anonymity to Reuters.

According to the Pentagon, an infantry brigade combat team will move from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to Kuwait to serve as a quick reaction force for security in Kabul if needed.

As Afghan government forces fall and fears increase that an attack on Kabul is just days away, Britain and several other Western nations are sending soldiers.

As U.S.-led international forces conclude their 20-year retreat, an Afghan government official announced on Friday that Kandahar, the southern commercial hub, was under Taliban control.

The hardline Islamist organization also took Herat in the west, close the Iranian border.

The loss of Kandahar was a major setback for the regime. It is near to the town of Spin Boldak, one of Pakistan’s two main entrance crossings and a major source of tax money, and is the heartland of the Taliban, ethnic Pashtun rebels that emerged in 1994 during the chaos of civil war.

BURNING DOCUMENTS

Before the fall of Pul-e-Alam, a US defense official expressed fear that the Taliban, who were deposed from power in 2001 following the September 11 attacks on the US, could attack Kabul within days.

“Kabul is not now under imminent threat,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said, “but clearly… if you look at what the Taliban has been doing, you can see that they are attempting to isolate Kabul.”

According to diplomats, some embassies have begun to burn critical documents in preparation for evacuation.

According to an advisory reviewed by Reuters, the US embassy in Kabul notified personnel that burn bins and an incinerator were available to destroy stuff such as papers and electronic devices to “limit the amount of sensitive material on the site.”

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres of the United Nations cautioned that “Afghanistan is spinning out of control” and urged all parties to do more to safeguard civilians.

“Now is the time to call a halt to the offensive. This is the time to get serious about negotiating. This is the time to avert a prolonged civil conflict or Afghanistan’s isolation “In New York, Guterres told reporters.

Residents stated that many individuals in the capital were stocking up on rice and other foods, as well as first aid. Officials indicated that visa applications at embassies were in the tens of thousands.

The escalation of fighting has sparked fears of a refugee crisis and a reversal of human rights advances. According to a United Nations official, 400,000 citizens have been displaced from their homes this year, with 250,000 of them since May.

In addition to Kabul, the government still controls Mazar-i-Sharif in the north and Jalalabad in the east, both near the Pakistani border.

The Taliban’s rapid gains have prompted recriminations over the United States’ exit, which was agreed last year under President Joe Biden’s Republican predecessor, Donald Trump.

This week, Biden stated that he did not regret his choice to leave. He emphasized that the US had spent more than $1 trillion and lost thousands of troops in Afghanistan over the last two decades, and he urged the Afghan army and politicians to do more.

Most Americans support Biden’s decision, according to polls, but Republicans have attacked the Democratic president’s handling of the US withdrawal.

Source : Reuters

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