A U.S. Chinook helicopter overflies the city of Kabul, Afghanistan on Sunday, August 15, 2021. Taliban fighters invaded the outskirts of the Afghan capital and further increased their hold in the country as panicked workers fled government offices and helicopters landed at the U.S. embassy.
Rahmat Gül | AP
WASHINGTON – The State Department has called on US citizens in Afghanistan to seek refuge, citing reports of sporadic shooting in Kabul, a dire development that lies hours after Taliban insurgents advanced their front lines into the country’s capital.
The relentless takeover by the Taliban follows the almost complete exodus of US and coalition forces from the war-weary country.
On Sunday, US forces evacuated diplomatic personnel from the embassy premises to the airport in Kabul using military helicopters. A security alert from the US Embassy warned: “There are reports of fires at the airport, so we are instructing US citizens to seek refuge on the spot.”
Foreign Secretary Antony Blinken, who appeared on several Sunday news programs, did not say the U.S. embassy in Kabul would be practically abandoned. He added that a “core diplomatic presence” will now be based at Hamid Karzai International Airport.
The latest revelation follows President Joe Biden’s orders to send about 5,000 US soldiers to Kabul to evacuate embassy personnel. In the meantime, the State Department instructed staff at the US embassy to destroy sensitive information before they left.
Great Britain, Germany and Canada also stormed troops into Kabul to evacuate their embassies.
In the past few days, the Taliban have made breathtaking changes of battlefield, with almost the entire nation now under their control.
Although the Taliban are vastly outnumbered by the Afghan military, which has long been supported by US and coalition forces, the Taliban invaded Kabul on Sunday.
In another blatant admission, Associated Press and Reuters reported on Sunday that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had left his country. CNBC has confirmed these reports.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani attends a security meeting in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 14, 2021.
Afghan Presidential Palace | Reuters
Two U.S. defense officials confirmed to NBC News that the Taliban also seized Bagram Air Force Base, a development that came less than two months after the U.S. military handed over the once steadfast air base to the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces.
The group began emptying the local Parwan Prison, which is estimated to have 5,000 to 7,000 prisoners, including die-hard Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants, officials said, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
In 2012, at its peak, Bagram looked through more than 100,000 U.S. soldiers. It was the largest US military facility in Afghanistan.
Last week the group captured Kandahar and Herat, Afghanistan’s second and third largest cities. The group also captured the strategic city of Pul-e-Alam, a city that has one of the four main roads into Kabul.
“You have to fight for yourself”
Taliban fighters sit over a vehicle on a street in Laghman province on August 15, 2021.
AFP | Getty Images
Speaking to reporters at the White House last week, Biden said he had no regrets about his decision to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan, effectively ending America’s longest war.
“Look, we’ve spent over a trillion dollars over 20 years, we’ve trained over 300,000 Afghan forces and equipped them with modern equipment,” Biden said on Aug. 10.
“Afghan leaders need to come together,” added the president. “You have to fight for yourself, fight for your nation.”
In April, Biden ordered the Pentagon to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan by September 11, a decision he believed was made in lockstep with NATO coalition forces.
United States President Joe Biden speaks during a clean cars and trucks event at the White House in Washington, Aug. 5, 2021.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
The Pentagon’s colossal task of removing soldiers and equipment from Afghanistan is almost complete, and the U.S. military mission is slated to end on August 31.
The Pentagon previously stated that the ongoing Taliban offensive across the country violates a commitment made by the group last year to open peace talks with the Afghan government.
The peace talks taking place in Qatar have now stalled.
“What we are seeing on the ground is that the Taliban are advancing and taking control of district and provincial centers, which clearly shows that they believe it is possible to get government through violence, brutality, violence and repression in great contradiction to their previously stated goal of actually participating in a negotiated political solution, “Pentagon spokesman John Kirby recently told reporters.
He added that while the Pentagon is concerned to see such advances by the Taliban, the Afghan military must now take advantage of nearly two decades of training from US and NATO coalition forces.
“They have the advantage in numbers, operational structure, air force and modern weapons, and it’s really about having the will and leadership to use those advantages for their own benefit,” said Kirby.
“The recipe cannot just be a permanent US presence in Afghanistan that never ends,” he added.