Taliban assures peaceful power transfer in Kabul; residents flee city
As negotiations continue inside the Afghan Presidential Palace to transfer power to the Taliban, the forces of the militant group wait on the outskirts of the Afghan capital, creating panic among shell-shocked civilians who are rushing to leave the city before the Taliban takes over.
The Taliban, however, has claimed that it wants a peaceful hand-over of power and has assured that its forces will not enter Kabul city. It may be noted that the Taliban would once again take over Kabul, 20 years after relinquishing power in an American-led assault.
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said fighters were remaining on the capital’s outskirts as negotiations took place. “Our forces have not entered Kabul city, and we just issued a statement saying that our forces will not enter Kabul city,” Shaheen told Al Jazeera from Doha where peace talks are taking place. “We are talking and awaiting a peaceful transfer – a transition of the capital city” he added.
The statement from the militant group asserted that it does not want to take over by force leading to the loss of lives and property. “Negotiations are underway to ensure that the transition process is completed safely and securely, without compromising the lives, property and honour of anyone, and without compromising the lives of Kabulis,” a Taliban statement said.
“The Islamic Emirate instructs all its forces to stand at the gates of Kabul, not to try to enter the city,” a spokesman for the Taliban tweeted, although some residents reported fighters peacefully entered some outer suburbs.
Despite the assurance, citizens could not remain calm as sirens blared while sporadic gunfire echoed in Kabul. Multiple helicopters were flying above the city centre dropping flares. Panicked workers fled government offices while thousands of civilians have taken shelter in parks and open spaces in the city.
Long queues of cars have formed as people try to find a way out of the city. Banks have also been busy as residents try to withdraw their savings, BBC reported.
Afghan MP Farzana Kochai describeD the scene: “I’m in my house and looking at the people who are just trying to run.” Earlier, Pakistan said it was closing the Torkham border crossing with Afghanistan after the militants seized the Afghan side of the border, according to reports. This left Kabul International Airport as the only way out of the country.
The chief of staff to President Ashraf Ghani on Twitter urged the people of Kabul: “Please don’t worry. There is no problem. The situation of Kabul is under control.” Afghan interior minister Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal said there would be a “peaceful transfer of power” to a transitional government after the Taliban ordered its fighters to hold back from entering Kabul.
“The Afghan people should not worry… There will be no attack on the city and there will be a peaceful transfer of power to the transitional government,” he said in a recorded speech.
There was no immediate word on the situation from Ghani. A palace official said he was in emergency talks with US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and top NATO officials.