Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Flees to Tajikistan Amid Taliban Entering Kabul

Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani has reportedly fled the country for neighboring Tajikistan after Taliban militants entered the nation's capital Kabul, on Sunday.

Abdullah Abdullah, a top political figure and chairman of Afghanistan's High Council for National Reconciliation, said in a Facebook video Sunday that Ghani left the country.

"The former president of Afghanistan left Afghanistan, leaving the country in this difficult situation," Abdullah said. "God should hold him accountable."

When reached for comment Sunday, the president's office said that it "cannot say anything about Ashraf Ghani's movement for security reasons," according to Reuters.

The move comes just hours after Taliban militants entered the outskirts of Kabul and sought the unconditional surrender of the nation's central government. The city marked the last major government stronghold, after Taliban insurgents seized power across the country in just over a week.

Taliban officials are now reportedly checking on Ghani's whereabouts, according to Reuters. A day earlier, the Afghan president released a recorded speech in which he pledged to "prevent further instability" and called for "remobilizing" the country's military.

In a statement Sunday, the Taliban said it was awaiting a "peaceful transfer of power" in Kabul and that would not take the capital by force. "No one's life, property and dignity will be harmed and the lives of the citizens of Kabul will not be at risk," the insurgent group said.

But the city, home to approximately 4 million people, now faces an uncertain future in the hours—and years—ahead, as sporadic gunfire could be heard around its outer edges. Panicked civilians were seen rushing to leave the country on Sunday through the Kabul airport, the last route out, as Taliban militants now control every border crossing.

Many Afghans now fear a return to extremist rule, particularly in its 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.

Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani
Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani has reportedly fled the country for neighboring Tajikistan after Taliban militants entered the nation's capital Kabul, on Sunday. In this photo, he speaks during a function at the Afghan presidential palace in Kabul on August 4, 2021 SAJJAD HUSSAIN / AFP/Getty Images

Amid the chaos, the U.S. military began evacuating American diplomatic and civilian staff from its embassy on Thursday. 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.

The Taliban's rapid advance across the country comes after the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in May. In the past week, Taliban insurgents faced little resistance from the Afghan military, despite the fact that the U.S. spent more than $83 billion to support over two decades to support the nation's security forces.

On Saturday, President Joe Biden remained steadfast in his decision to oversee with complete removal of U.S. troops from the country.

"I was the fourth president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan — two Republicans, two Democrats," he said on Saturday. "I would not, and will not, pass this war onto a fifth."

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday defended Biden's decision to end the American military mission in Afghanistan. Had Biden called off the withdrawal, "we would have been back at the war with the Taliban," and forced to send tens of thousands of American forces back into the country, Blinken said, the Associated Press reported.

Blinken also said during an interview with CNN Sunday that the U.S. has told the Taliban that there will be "a swift and decisive response" if the insurgent group interferes in the evacuation of Americans from Afghanistan.

Updated 11:38 AM ET, with additional information.