Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has fled the country, effectively leaving Afghanistan in Taliban control.
TOLO Newsfirst reported Ghani’s departure on social media Sunday morning. Fox News confirmed that Ghani and a core team of close allies were flown out around 10 a.m. EST.
“That’s it. It’s over,” a U.S. official told Fox News, according to reporter Lucas Tomlinson.
BREAKING: Afghan President Ghani has fled the country. “That’s it. It’s over,” U.S. official says
— Lucas Tomlinson (@LucasFoxNews) August 15, 2021
“Afghanistan’s embattled president left the country Sunday, joining his fellow citizens and foreigners in a stampede fleeing the advancing Taliban and signaling the end of a 20-year Western experiment aimed at remaking Afghanistan,” The Associated Press noted Sunday.
“The former president of Afghanistan left Afghanistan, leaving the country in this difficult situation,” Abdullah Abdullah, the head of the Afghan National Reconciliation Council, said in an online video confirming Ghani’s flight. “God should hold him accountable.”
The president’s departure suggests that the Taliban will soon be in control, according to reports. The Taliban moved into the city — and beyond where they had been stationed at the city walls — almost immediately following news that Ghani was out of the country. The Taliban is reportedly “awaiting a peaceful transfer of Kabul city,” a spokesperson for the group told the BBC, but they have so far refused to give details of what they are requesting or whether there will be any deal beyond a complete takeover with a short window for evacuation.
The U.S. has, according to news reports, asked the Taliban for a two-week window to allow for a full evacuation of U.S. personnel and key allies, particularly Afghan translators and their families, who have, as of Sunday morning, been reportedly been offered a safe haven in Canada.
“The Taliban, which for hours had been in the outskirts of Kabul, announced soon after they would move further into a city gripped by panic throughout the day as helicopters raced overhead to evacuate personnel from the U.S. Embassy,” the AP added. “Smoke rose near the compound as staff destroyed important documents. Several other Western missions also prepared to pull their people out.”
The United States also announced that it would be leaving its embassy, completing a process begun earlier on Sunday morning.
The U.S. plans to evacuate hundreds of personnel and officials from the embassy within 72 hours as staff rush to burn sensitive documents and prepare to abandon the embassy to the Taliban for the time being.
“The withdrawal of embassy personnel marks a rapid acceleration of the process that had only been announced on Thursday, and is a situation that many State Department security officials expected would have to happen given the speed with which the Taliban has gained territory in Afghanistan in recent days,” CNN reported.
“Most of the American diplomats will go to the airport in Kabul, the capital, and then fly back to the US,” the outlet continued. “A small number of core personnel, including the top US diplomat in the country, will remain at the Kabul airport for now, the sources said. This means that the US Embassy in Kabul will be shuttered — at least for the time being — by Tuesday.”