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Taliban return to power as president and diplomats flee Kabul

By Reuters

Kabul: Taliban insurgents were returning to power in Kabul on Monday after a military advance across Afghanistan as U.S-led forces departed, and Western nations stepped up efforts to evacuate their citizens from the capital.

President Ashraf Ghani fled the country on Sunday as the Islamist militants entered the city, saying he wanted to avoid bloodshed. A Taliban spokesman said the war is over and the Afghan people will soon learn what form the new regime will take.

In Washington, opponents of President Joe Biden’s decision to end America’s longest war, launched after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, said the chaos was caused by a failure of leadership as more U.S. troops were deployed to help rescue U.S. civilians.

Overnight, the focus was Kabul airport, where hundreds of desperate Afghans seeking to flee the country were waiting for flights, some dragging luggage across runways in the dark.

A source at the airport said some scuffles broke out among people unable to get a place as departures were halted.

Local television 1TV reported that multiple explosions were heard in the capital after dark, but the city was largely quiet during the day on Sunday.

Aid group Emergency said 80 wounded people had been brought to its hospital in Kabul, which was at capacity, and that it was only admitting people with life-threatening injuries.

It was not yet clear where Ghani was headed or how exactly power would be transferred following the Taliban’s lightning sweep across Afghanistan. The spokesman for the Taliban’s political office told Al Jazeera television that the group wants good relations with the international community.

Al Jazeera earlier showed footage of what it said were Taliban commanders in the presidential palace with dozens of armed fighters.

In a Facebook post, Ghani said he had left the country to avoid clashes with the Taliban that would endanger millions of residents of Kabul. He did not say where he was.

Some local social media users in Kabul branded Ghani a coward for leaving them in chaos.

American diplomats were flown by helicopter to the airport from their embassy in the fortified Wazir Akbar Khan district as Afghan forces, trained for years and equipped by the United States and others at a cost of billions of dollars, melted away.

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