Afghanistan president Ashraf Ghani has confirmed he fled the country to avoid bloodshed as Taliban insurgents entered the capital Kabul on Sunday.
Taliban commanders said they had taken control of the presidential palace and the war in Afghanistan
In a Facebook
post, Mr Ghani said: "Today I came across a tough choice. I have to either face the armed Taliban who want to enter the palace or leave the country where I have dedicated my life to protecting and nurturing for the last 20 years.
"If left unchecked, countless patriots would be martyred and the city of Kabul would be devastated, resulting in a major humanitarian catastrophe in the six-million-strong city.
"The Taliban had made it clear that they were ready to carry out a bloody attack on all of Kabul and the people of Kabul Sharif to oust me. In order to prevent a flood of bloodshed, I decided to leave.”
British troops arrived in Kabul on Sunday to help evacuate embassy staff and UK citizens.
The United States has evacuated diplomats from its embassy by helicopter.
A spokesman for the Taliban’s political office, which is based in Doha, Qatar, told Al Jazeera that the type and form of regime that will be enfored in the country will be clear “soon”.
The spokesman added that safety will be provided for citizens and diplomatic missions.
“We don’t interfere with others’ affairs and we wont allow interference in our affairs”, he said.
“We have reached what we were seeking, the freedom of our country and the independence of our people.”
US officials said its diplomats were being ferried to the airport from the embassy in the fortified Wazir Akbar Khan district.
More American troops were being sent to help in the evacuations after the Taliban’s lightning advances brought the Islamist group to Kabul in a matter of days.
Just last week, a US intelligence estimate said Kabul could hold out for at least three months.
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said that women should not be scared. “We will protect their honour, allow them to work and have access to education,” he told the BBC. “They should continue the work as normal.”
However, reports from areas already captured by the group suggest women’s rights are being eradicated.
When insurgents were seizing territory from government forces in early July, a group walked into the offices of Azizi Bank in the southern city of Kandahar and ordered nine women working there to leave.Gunmen reportedly escorted them home and told them not to return to their jobs, saying male relatives could take their jobs.
On Sunday “core” American team members were working from the Kabul airport, a US official said, while a NATO official said several EU staff had moved to a safer, undisclosed location in the capital.
Earlier on Sunday, the insurgents captured the eastern city of Jalalabad without a fight, giving them control of one of the main highways into landlocked Afghanistan
. They also took over the nearby Torkham border post with Pakistan, leaving Kabul airport the only way out of Afghanistan
that is still in government hands.
The capture of Jalalabad followed the Taliban’s seizure of the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif late on Saturday, also with little fighting.
“There are no clashes taking place right now in Jalalabad because the governor has surrendered to the Taliban,” a Jalalabad-based Afghan official told Reuters. “Allowing passage to the Taliban was the only way to save civilian lives.”
A video clip distributed by the Taliban showed people cheering and shout Allahu Akbar - God is greatest - as a convoy of pick-up trucks entered the city with fighters brandishing machine guns and the white Taliban flag.
After US-led forces withdrew the bulk of the their remaining troops in the last month, the Taliban campaign accelerated as the Afghan military’s defences appeared to collapse.
President Joe Biden
on Saturday authorised the deployment of 5,000 troops to help evacuate citizens and ensure an “orderly and safe” drawdown of military personnel. A US defence official said that included 1,000 newly approved troops from the 82nd Airborne Division.
Video: This may become the most infamous — and devastating — press conference ever held by an American President.