The Afghanistan military and government fell to the Taliban on Sunday after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country and insurgent forces entered the capital city of Kabul. The development occurred just five weeks after U.S. President Joe Biden said he “trusted” the Afghan military to withstand such an invasion.
The Taliban entered Kabul early Sunday after seizing power across the country in just a little over a week. The capital city marked the last major government stronghold, but as forces honed in on the area, the nation’s president joined a stampede of civilians and foreigners in fleeing the country.
According to the Associated Press, the Taliban will soon announce the renaming of the country to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan from the presidential palace.
The Taliban’s relentless advance across Afghanistan came after the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country in May. In the past week, Taliban insurgents faced little resistance from the Afghan military, showcasing the weakness of the country’s security forces despite the fact that the U.S. spent billions of dollars to support its military over 20 years.
The stunning development occurred just five weeks after Biden said he “trusted” the Afghan military to fend off the Taliban. During a July 8 press conference, the president denied that an invasion from the militant group was “inevitable,” after American troops were pulled from the country.
“I trust the capacity of the Afghan military, who is better trained, better equipped, and moreâ€”more competent in terms of conducting war,” Biden said last month, while adding that the military was “as well-equipped as any army in the world.”
The scene in Kabul on Sunday was gripped by panic as civilians rushed to leave the country. The U.S. Embassy warned Americans to not head to the airport after reports that the facility was taking fire, and said that the situation was “changing quickly.”
Many Afghans now fear a return to extremist rule, particularly due to the Taliban’s harsh treatment of women. The last time the Taliban ruled the country from 1996 to 2001, it barred women and girls from working or receiving an education, and required women to be escorted by a male relative when leaving the home.
Under a strict interpretation of Islam, the militant group also closed movie theaters, shuttered the Kabul television station, and banned the playing of all music.
By Sunday evening, Taliban forces were seen moving into police districts across Kabul that had been abandoned by government security, and a coordinated council formed by the country’s former president and other top political figures was developed to maintain a peaceful transfer of power. Interior Minister Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal said Sunday that the city is not under the threat of attack.
“The city’s security is guaranteed. There will be no attack on the city,” he said, according to The New York Times. “The agreement for greater Kabul city is that under an interim administration, God willing, power will be transferred.”
Amid the chaos, the U.S. military began evacuating American diplomatic and civilian staff from its embassy on Thursday. Embassy staffers on Friday were told to destroy all sensitive materials, and a core group of American diplomats were moved to a facility at the international airport.
Over the weekend, the total number of U.S. troops in the city grew to 5,000 after an additional 1,000 troops were sent to help accelerate the process of getting Americans out of the country.
By Sunday evening in Afghanistan, it remained unclear when that transfer of power would take place and who among the Taliban was negotiating, according to the AP.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a CNN interview Sunday that the Taliban has been told there will be “a swift and decisive response” if the insurgent group interferes in the evacuation of Americans from Afghanistan.
When asked if the U.S. would ever recognize the militant group as a legitimate Afghan government, Blinken said: “A future Afghan government that upholds the basic rights of its people and that doesn’t harbor terrorists is a government we can work with and recognize.”
“Conversely, a government that doesn’t do that, that doesn’t uphold the basic rights of its people, including women and girls, that harbors terrorist groups that have designs on the United States, our allies and partners, certainly, that’s not going to happen,” he added.