The Taliban made their way into Afghanistan’s capital Sunday after the government collapsed and the president joined an exodus of his fellow citizens and foreigners, signaling the end of a war that has lasted nearly 20 years.
Heavily armed Taliban fighters spread out across the capital, and several entered Kabul’s abandoned presidential palace. Suhail Shaheen, a Taliban spokesman and negotiator, told The Associated Press that the militants would hold talks in the coming days aimed at forming an “open, inclusive Islamic government.”
Earlier, a Taliban official said the group would announce from the palace the restoration of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the formal name of the country under Taliban rule before the militants were ousted by U.S.-led forces in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, which were orchestrated by al-Qaida while it was being sheltered by the Taliban. But that plan appeared to be on hold.
As the Taliban took control in Kabul, the Pentagon and State Department Sunday night announed the U.S. was completing “a series of steps to secure the Hamid Karzai International Airport to enable the safe departure of U.S. and allied personnel from Afghanistan via civilian and military flights.”
Over the next 48 hours, the U.S. is expected to expand the security presence to nearly 6,000 troops, “with a mission focused solely on facilitating these efforts and will be taking over air traffic control,” the statement read. “Tomorrow and over the coming days, we will be transferring out of the country thousands of American citizens who have been resident in Afghanistan, as well as locally employed staff of the U.S. mission in Kabul and their families and other particularly vulnerable Afghan nationals.”
There are thousands of Afghans who risked their lives helping the U.S. over the past two decades and are still seeking Special Immigrant Visas. The U.S., according to the statement, “will accelerate the evacuation of thousands of Afghans eligible for U.S. Special Immigrant Visas, nearly 2,000 of whom have already arrived in the United States over the past two weeks. “
For all categories, Afghans who have cleared security screening “will continue to be transferred directly to the United States. And we will find additional locations for those yet to be screened.”
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: ROCHESTER FIRST
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