Kabul: Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani and Vice-President Amrullah Saleh fled to Tajikistan as Taliban insurgents encircled the Afghan capital completely Sunday, sources said. This happened even as the Taliban leaders sitting in Doha, Qatar, continue to discuss a “transfer of power” with government officials, sources told ThePrint.
The rapid advances of the Taliban, including their arrival at Kabul’s gates, have stoked chaos in the Afghan capital. On Sunday, gun-toting civilians were spotted with Kalashnikovs, as angry policemen harassed civilians and people were forced to leave their cars behind on the road and walk.
In the preceding days, the Taliban, looking to establish an Islamic emirate in Afghanistan, overran vast swathes of territory amid the pullout of the international forces.
Sources said the Taliban leaders want a “peaceful transition of power” under the Doha process, and are “open to an interim set-up” while an inclusive government gets the much-needed legitimacy.
According to sources, Taliban leaders involved in the Doha talks could take an important role in an interim government. While Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar is expected to be the new President, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, their chief negotiator, will also get a significant role, the sources added.
Hectic negotiations, which have been underway since Friday, by when the Taliban had swept through the majority of the provincial capitals, have been going on in parallel at Kabul and Doha.
The Ghani government, sources said, wanted some kind of a face-saver before it technically “surrenders” to the Taliban. Ghani was believed to have been assured by Washington that he would be given “safe passage” on the condition that he “steps down immediately”.
Chaos in Kabul
With a deal between the Afghan government and the Taliban, waiting at the gates, yet elusive, Kabul Sunday entered a phase of extreme panic and chaos.
Sporadic gunfire was heard on the streets as American Chinooks flew to evacuate their diplomatic staff and American civilians.
Afghan security personnel blocked Kabul’s roads and hotels were asked to go for a lockdown. Internet connectivity and news broadcast channels were stopped as temporary measures.
Meanwhile, nearby Muslim-majority nations like Turkey, Iran, Tajikistan and Pakistan are battling a crisis of their own as thousands of Afghan refugees arrive at their borders to escape the Taliban.
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)