Timeline: Taliban takeover in Afghanistan

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Aug 17 2021 07:29 PM

A Taliban fighter holding an M16 assault rifle stands outside the Interior Ministry in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 16, 2021. Reuters/Stringer
A Taliban fighter holding an M16 assault rifle stands outside the Interior Ministry in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 16, 2021. Reuters/Stringer

The main developments since Taliban fighters took Kabul, confirming their takeover of power in Afghanistan after a stunningly swift end to the country's 20-year war.

- At the gates -

On Sunday, Taliban fighters appear on the edge of Kabul after a lightning offensive that began in May as US and NATO troops began to withdraw.

In the space of 10 days, they seized city after city across the country without resistance.

- 'Peaceful transfer' -

"The Afghan people should not worry... there will be no attack on the city and there will be a peaceful transfer of power," interior minister Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal says in a recorded speech.

Embattled President Ashraf Ghani urges government forces to maintain security in the capital.

A Qatar-based Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen says the group wants a swift takeover.

- Panic -

The international community is taken by surprise by the speed of the fall, with Pope Francis calling for "dialogue" and NATO urging "a political solution to the conflict".

Russia works with other countries for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.

Panic spreads through Kabul, with shops closing and people seeking to withdraw their money from banks.

Foreign countries organize the evacuation of their citizens and Afghans who have worked for them.

- President Ghani flees -

On Sunday evening, former vice president Abdullah Abdullah announces that president Ghani has left the country.

The Taliban then say their militants have entered multiple districts of the capital.

- 'The Taliban have won' - 

Television images show the Taliban have entered the capital and seized the presidential palace.

In a message on Facebook, Ghani says he has fled to avoid a "flood of bloodshed" and that the "Taliban have won".

He does not give his location but the local Tolo media organisation suggests he is in Tajikistan.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres urges the Taliban to "exercise utmost restraint".

- Chaos at airport -

People besiege the airport, the only exit route from the country, and chaos breaks out on the tarmac, carrying on into Monday as people try to board the few flights available.

US troops open fire, killing two armed men, the Pentagon says. All military and civilian flights are halted at Kabul airport.

- International 'failure' -

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson calls for G7 leaders to hold a virtual meeting "in the coming days". Defence Minister Ben Wallace says the Taliban takeover is a "failure of the international community".

The withdrawal of Western troops from Afghanistan is the "biggest debacle" that NATO has suffered since its founding, the head of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's party Armin Laschet says.

China becomes the first country to say it is ready to deepen "friendly and cooperative" relations with Afghanistan, while the Russian foreign ministry says the situation in Kabul "is stabilising".

- 'Terrorism' threat - 

The UN Security Council says the international community must ensure Afghanistan does not become a breeding ground for terrorism under the Taliban, following an emergency meeting in New York.

French President Emmanuel Macron adds Afghanistan should not become again the "sanctuary of terrorism".

- Biden defends exit -

US President Joe Biden cuts short his vacation to address the nation.

Speaking from the White House he insists he has no regrets and emphasizes US troops cannot defend a nation whose leaders "gave up and fled".

"We gave them every chance to determine their own future. We could not provide them with the will to fight for that future," Biden says.

- Back to work -

The Taliban move quickly on Tuesday to restart Kabul, telling government staff to resume their duties "without any fear". Some shops reopen and evacuation flights from Kabul's airport restart.

- No forced returns -

The UN refugee agency says it has released a "non-return advisory" for Afghanistan, insisting no Afghan nationals should be forced to return to their conflict-torn nation.

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