Taliban Militants Entering Kabul 'From All Sides' as U.S. Evacuates Embassy

Taliban militants have reportedly entered the outskirts of the Afghan capital, Kabul.

The Associated Press, citing three Afghan officials, reported on Sunday that Taliban fighters were advancing on Kabul, with the Afghan Interior Ministry telling Reuters and Agence France-Presse that the insurgents were moving into the city from all sides.

The city, home to approximately 4 million people, faces an uncertain future in the hours—and years—ahead, as sporadic gunfire sounds around the city's outer edges.

The Taliban and the Afghan government have expressed hope that large-scale fighting will be avoided.

Power will be handed over to the Taliban peacefully, acting Afghan Interior Minister Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal has said, adding that any defence of Kabul is in the hands of the security forces.

The militants have pledged not to take Kabul "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 Taliban said.

The U.S. has started to evacuate its embassy. Rapid shuttle flights of Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopters have been seen in the area on Sunday, AP reported.

"We have a small batch of people leaving now as we speak, a majority of the staff are ready to leave," one official told Reuters on Sunday. "The embassy continues to function."

On Saturday, 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.

President Joe Biden has been resolute in his decision to oversee the complete withdrawal of the U.S. from Afghanistan.

"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."

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, has said the Biden administration has asked Albania to serve as a "transit place for a certain number of Afghan political emigrants who have the United States as their final destination."

A U.S. military helicopter over Kabul.
A U.S. military helicopter flies above the U.S. embassy in Kabul on August 15, 2021, as the Taliban nears. WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images

The Afghan government currently controls only Kabul and five other provincial capitals out of the country's 34, following a major advance by the Taliban over a little more than a week. It comes after the withdrawal of the U.S. and its allies.

Without the U.S.-led forces, Taliban militants have faced little resistance as they surged through the country. The below infographic, produced by Statista, depicts the situation as it stood on Friday.

On paper, the Afghan government had about 350,000 well-equipped military personnel, however, many observers have since questioned the actual number of boots on the ground, with troops and police bemoaning a lack of support and coordination.

Insurgents captured the key eastern city of Jalalabad without a fight on Sunday, giving the insurgents control of a road leading to the Pakistan city of Peshawar, a main highway into landlocked Afghanistan.

The Taliban's also seized the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif late on Saturday.

On Thursday, Taliban fighters seized Kandahar and Herat, the second and third-largest cities.

Afghanistan, control, map, Taliban, advances
A map illustrates the level of control and ongoing advances by the Taliban movement in Afghanistan as of August 13, according to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies' Long War Journal led by Bill Roggio. Statista

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has been holding talks with local leaders and international partners, including U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in recent days.

Ghani and Blinken discussed urgent efforts to reduce violence in Afghanistan, the State Department said. Qatar, which has been hosting so-far inconclusive peace talks, said it had urged the insurgents to agree to a ceasefire.