President Ashraf Ghani has left Afghanistan for Tajikistan as Taliban closes in on Kabul, the country’s capital.
The country’s top peace negotiator and head of the High Council for National Reconciliation, Abdullah Abdullah, disclsoed this one Sunday.
“The former Afghan president has left the nation,” Abdullah, said in a video on his Facebook page.
Ghani’s departure comes amid negotiations for a peaceful transfer of power after Taliban fighters encircled Kabul after capturing 26 of the country’s 34 provincial capitals in less than two weeks.
Meanwhile, a Taliban official told Reuters they were checking reports about Ghani’s departure from the country.
On Sunday, Taliban troops surrounded Afghanistan’s seat of power, promising it had instructed its fighters to refrain from violence and offer safe passage to anyone wishing to leave Kabul.
Meanwhile, the United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, on Sunday said that the defeat of Afghan security forces that has led to the Taliban’s takeover “happened more quickly than we anticipated.”
He, however, maintained the President Joe Biden-led administration’s position that keeping U.S. troops in Afghanistan was not in American interests.
“This is heart-wrenching stuff,” Blinken said in an interview on CNN, after a night that saw members of the Taliban enter the Afghanistan nu capital, Kabul, and the shuttering of the U.S. Embassy as the last remaining American diplomats in Afghanistan were moved to a facility at the city’s airport for better protection.
Blinken stopped short of saying that all American diplomats would return to the United States, repeating an intent to maintain a small core of officials in Kabul.
But he defended the administration’s decision to withdraw the military from Afghanistan after 20 years of war, saying it could have been vulnerable to Taliban attacks had the United States reneged on an agreement brokered under President Donald Trump for all foreign forces to leave the country.
“We would have been back at war with the Taliban,” Blinken said, calling that “something the American people simply can’t support — that is the reality.”
He said it was not in America’s interests to devote more time, money and, potentially, casualties, to Afghanistan at a time that the United States was also facing long-term strategic challenges from China and Russia. But Blinken said American forces will remain in the region to confront any terrorist threat against the United States at home that might arise from Afghanistan.
He also appeared to demand more conditions for the prospect of recognizing the Taliban as a legitimate government or establishing a formal diplomatic relationship with them.
Earlier, the Biden administration had said the Taliban, in order to acquire international financial support, must never allow terrorists to use Afghanistan as a haven, must not take Kabul by force and must not attack Americans.
Blinken also said the Taliban must also uphold basic rights of citizens, particularly women who gained new freedoms to go to work and school after the Taliban were ousted from power in 2001.
“There will be no recognition of a Taliban government if they’re not sustaining the basic rights of the Afghan people, and if they revert to supporting or harboring terrorists who might strike us,” the Secretary of State said.