Taliban enters Afghan presidential palace after Ghani flees

Hundreds of Afghans crowd Kabul airport after Taliban enters city and seizes control of presidential palace.

Taliban leaders inside the presidential palace [Screen grab/ Al Jazeera]

A top Taliban official has said that the real test of governing is set to begin after the group entered the Afghan capital, Kabul, and took control of the presidential palace.

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who heads the Taliban’s political bureau, said in a brief video statement on Sunday that the test would begin with meeting the expectations of Afghans and resolving their problems.

Al Jazeera obtained exclusive footage of Taliban leaders, surrounded by dozens of armed fighters, addressing the media from the country’s seat of power earlier on Sunday.

They entered the palace after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country amid the Taliban’s rapid advance, which saw the group capture 26 of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals in less than two weeks.

Ghani later said in a statement posted on Facebook that he fled to prevent further bloodshed.

“The Taliban have won with the judgement of their swords and guns, and are now responsible for the honour, property and self-preservation of their countrymen,” he said.

Here are the key developments from Sunday, August 15, as they happened:

Trump calls for Biden to resign over Taliban takeover of Afghanistan

Former US President Donald Trump called for his successor Joe Biden to resign on Sunday over the swift takeover of Afghanistan by Taliban fighters, as US troops withdrew from the country after nearly 20 years on the ground.

“It is time for Joe Biden to resign in disgrace for what he has allowed to happen to Afghanistan,” Trump said in a statement.

The Taliban have reconquered Afghanistan in a lightning surge 20 years after they were toppled by the US invasion.

They entered Kabul on Sunday, more than two weeks before the August 31 deadline set by Biden to complete the withdrawal of American troops from the country.

It was under Trump that the US brokered a deal with the Taliban in Doha in 2020 that would have seen the US withdraw all its troops by May 2021, in exchange for various security guarantees from the group.

Iran reduces number of diplomats in Afghanistan

Iran has reduced its diplomatic presence in Afghanistan, the foreign ministry said Sunday, leaving a skeleton staff at the embassy in Kabul.

“There has been a reduction in staff at Iran’s embassy in Kabul,” foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said in a statement, adding that some personnel remained to ensure the “embassy’s necessary activities” continue.

Khatibzadeh said staff had evacuated three of the Islamic republic’s five Afghan diplomatic missions – in Mazar-i-Sharif, Jalalabad and Kandahar – but would continue their activities from the capital.

“Currently at these three offices only some guards and some local workers are present,” he added.

Afghans crowd Kabul airport, seeking way out of country

Local television station 1TV reported that gunfire could be heard as night fell near the Kabul airport, where foreign diplomats, officials and other Afghans fled, seeking to leave the country amid the Taliban’s advance.

Massouma Tajik, a 22-year-old data analyst, was among hundreds of Afghans waiting anxiously to board an evacuation flight.

“I see people crying, they are not sure whether their flight will happen or not. Neither am I,” she told The Associated Press by phone, with panic in her voice.

Hundreds or more Afghans crowded in a part of the airport away from many of the evacuating Westerners.

Some of them, including a man with a broken leg sitting on the ground, lined up for what was expected to be a last flight out by the country’s Ariana Airlines.

Foreign troops should remain in Kabul: Ex-advisor to President Ghani

The international forces sent to Afghanistan to evacuate foreign nationals should remain in the country until the Taliban keep their promises, a former advisor to President Ashraf Ghani told Al Jazeera.

“Other than for evacuating diplomats and some Afghans, the international troops have to be there in Kabul for a certain time to make sure the Taliban are keeping up with their promises,” Shafiq Hamdam said.

“The Taliban have to allow the people to decide their future. They must not lead Afghanistan to become a country in chaos without any rule of law or government. They must not repeat the emirate that was there before 2001,” he added.

“Everyone was panicking”

People in Kabul are afraid of seeing Taliban fighters on the streets of Kabul, Sharif Safi, founder of Kabul Peace Forum, told Al Jazeera.

“Today was different. The whole city was silent. Everyone was panicking. It was around noon that we heard rumours that they [Taliban] entered Kabul city,” Safi said.

“From noon on, where I live, there were some gunfire. People feel devastated. Very strange feeling. The government that most of the people in Kabul support is no more in power. We just hope there is no more bloodshed and destruction,” he added.

UN chief Guterres urge Taliban show restraint to protect lives

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the “Taliban and all other parties to exercise utmost restraint in order to protect lives” and ensure humanitarian needs can be addressed, his spokesman said in a statement.

“He calls on the Taliban and all other parties to ensure that international humanitarian law and the rights and freedoms of all people are respected and protected,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Afghanistan: Mapping the advance of the Taliban

The Taliban armed group is eying power after it entered the capital Kabul, capturing 26 out of the country’s 34 provincial capitals in the past 10 days.

The armed group, which was toppled from power in a United States-led invasion in 2001, stepped up its campaign to defeat the Western-backed government in May as foreign forces started to withdraw from the country.

Taliban senior official says real test begins now

One of the Taliban’s most senior officials declared on Sunday that the movement’s swift victory over the Afghan government was an unrivalled feat but that the real test of governing effectively would begin now that it had won power.

In a brief video statement, Baradar, the head of the Taliban’s political bureau, said the victory, which saw all of the country’s major cities fall in a week, was unexpectedly swift and had no match in the world.

However, he said the real test would begin now with meeting the expectations of the people and serving them by resolving their problems.

Qatar calls for peaceful transition of power in Afghanistan

Qatar called for a peaceful transition of power in Afghanistan that paves the way for a comprehensive political solution that includes all Afghan parties and realises security and stability.

The Gulf Arab state’s foreign ministry in a statement also stressed the need for an immediate and lasting ceasefire in Afghanistan and to guarantee the safety of civilians.

US authorises additional 1,000 troops for Kabul evacuation: Official

The Pentagon authorised an additional 1,000 troops to help with the evacuation from Kabul, a US official said on Sunday, bringing the total number of troops expected in Afghanistan temporarily to 6,000.

The official, speaking to Reuters news agency on condition of anonymity, said the additional 1,000 troops would come from the 82nd Airborne Division, which had already been on standby.

Saudi diplomatic mission in Kabul evacuated: State media

Saudi Arabia has evacuated all members of its diplomatic mission in Kabul, state news agency SPA said.

“All members of the Kingdom’s embassy in the Afghan capital, Kabul, have been evacuated, and they have arrived home,” it said.

In Pictures: Taliban takes control of Afghan presidential palace

Taliban fighters have entered Afghanistan’s presidential palace hours after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.

The group’s leadership, surrounded by dozens of armed fighters, addressed the media from the country’s seat of power.

More photos here.

‘This is not Saigon’: Blinken defends US evacuations from Kabul

As the United States withdraws personnel from its embassy in Kabul and Taliban fighters enter the Afghan capital, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has rejected comparisons to Washington’s exit from Vietnam decades ago.

In a series of US media interviews on Sunday, Blinken again defended President Joe Biden’s decision to pull US troops out of Afghanistan by the end of August, despite mounting criticism that the swift US withdrawal contributed to the country’s deteriorating security situation.

“Remember, this is not Saigon,” Blinken told CNN, referring to the fall of Saigon in 1975 at the end of the Vietnam War. “We went to Afghanistan 20 years ago with one mission, and that mission was to deal with the folks who attacked us on 9/11 – and we have succeeded in that mission.”

A US Chinook helicopter flies over Kabul as Taliban fighters encircled the Afghan capital [Rahmat Gul/AP]

Read more here.

Al Jazeera gains exclusive access to footage of Taliban fighters entering the Afghan presidential palace after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.

Estonia, Norway request UN Security Council meeting on Afghanistan: Diplomats

Estonia and Norway have requested the 15-member United Nations Security Council meet on Afghanistan as soon as possible, diplomats said.

Virgin Atlantic re-routing flights to avoid Afghanistan’s airspace

Virgin Atlantic is rerouting flights to avoid Afghanistan’s airspace, the airline said, joining British Airways which earlier announced a similar move.

Meanwhile, a senior US military official told The Associated Press news agency that Kabul’s international airport has been closed to commercial flights.

The suspension of commercial flights cuts off one of the last avenues to escape the country for Afghans fearful of Taliban rule.

What will happen to Afghanistan’s CIA-backed militias?

Since the American-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the US has trained thousands of Afghan security forces.

Among them are militias that were backed by the US Central Intelligence Agency.

For years, activists and journalists have documented civilian killings that took place by their hands. How will that legacy affect the current fight ahead for the country?

Afghan president Ghani says he left the country in order to avoid bloodshed

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said he left the country in order to avoid bloodshed, as the Taliban entered the presidential palace in Kabul.

Ghani left in order to avoid clashes with the Taliban that would endanger millions of Kabul residents, he said in a Facebook post – his first comments since leaving the country.

He did not disclose details on his current location.

Taliban fighters enter Afghan presidential palace

Taliban fighters have entered Afghanistan’s presidential palace hours after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.

The group’s leadership, surrounded by dozens of armed fighters, addressed the media from the country’s seat of power.

Meanwhile, a Taliban spokesman told Al Jazeera those who worked with the West-backed government and military will be offered amnesty.

Taliban leadership inside the presidential palace [Screen grab/ Al Jazeera]

‘Unpatriotic’: Afghans slam President Ghani’s swift departure

The departure of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani from the country has left many in the country feeling angered and confused as the Taliban armed group looked to retake power 20 years after it was toppled in a United States-led military invasion.

Late on Sunday, it was announced that Ghani had left the country with several members of his cabinet.

“The former President of Afghanistan has left Afghanistan … He has left the nation in this state [for that] God will hold him to account,” Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, said in a video posted to his Facebook page.

The collapse of the Western-backed government in Kabul comes in the wake of Taliban blitzkrieg that began on August 6 and led to the capture of more than two dozen Afghan provinces by Sunday morning.

Read more here.

What legacy does Ashraf Ghani leave after Afghanistan departure?

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has left Afghanistan for Tajikistan as the Taliban closes in on Kabul, according to several media reports.

Ghani’s departure comes amid negotiations for a peaceful transfer of power after Taliban fighters entered Kabul.

Al Jazeera’s Jillian Wolf reports on his political career and what his departure means for Afghanistan.

UAE says working to facilitate evacuation of foreign diplomats from Afghanistan

The United Arab Emirates foreign ministry said it was working on facilitating the evacuation of foreign diplomatic staff from Afghanistan through airports in the Gulf Arab state.

That included diplomatic staff from the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Canada, Egypt, Australia and the European Union, Abu Dhabi said in a statement.

The UAE is a major international air transit hub.

Countries should not recognise Taliban as Afghan gov’t: PM Johnson

Nobody should bilaterally recognise the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, adding it was clear that there would be a new administration in the country very shortly.

“We don’t want anybody bilaterally recognising the Taliban,” he said.

“We want a united position amongst all the like-minded as far as we can get one,” Johnson added.

Kabul in panic as Taliban fighters tighten grip

As the Taliban tightens its grip on Kabul, there is a growing sense of panic among many people in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

Prices of basic goods have skyrocketed as many try to withdraw all their funds.

Al Jazeera’s Rob Mcbride reports.

Nepal calls for evacuation of at least 1,500 Nepalis in Afghanistan

Nepal’s government called for the evacuation of an estimated 1,500 Nepalis working as security staff with embassies and with international aid groups in Afghanistan.

“We have formally written to embassies requesting them for the evacuation,” Nepal Foreign Ministry spokesperson Sewa Lamsal told Reuters in Kathmandu.

Lamsal said the government has also set up a panel to determine the exact number of Nepalis working in Kabul and elsewhere in Afghanistan.

“The government will make arrangements for their evacuation also,” she said.

Nepal does not have a diplomatic presence in Afghanistan but thousands of Nepali men work as security guards in diplomatic districts of the country.

Blinken warns Taliban against attack on US forces, personnel

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Biden administration was focused “first and foremost” on the safety of US diplomatic personnel in the Afghan capital.

He said in an interview with ABC News that US personnel were being moved from the embassy to a facility at the airport “to ensure that they can operate safely and securely”.

Blinken added that the US has “been very clear with the Taliban that any effort on their part to interrupt our operations, to attack our forces, to attack our personnel, would be met with a very strong, decisive response”.

Who are Taliban’s key leaders?

The Taliban has been fighting the Western-backed Afghan government in Kabul since it was removed from power in 2001.

It originally drew members from so-called “mujahideen” fighters who, with support from the United States, repelled Soviet forces in the 1980s.

The group emerged in 1994 as one of the factions fighting a civil war and went on to control most of the country by 1996, when it imposed its interpretation of Islamic law.

These are some of the key figures in the movement:

US Embassy in Kabul warns of worsening security at airport amid evacuation

The US Embassy in Kabul said in a security alert that the security situation in the Afghan capital was changing quickly, including at the airport, where there were reports of gunfire.

“There are reports of the airport taking fire; therefore we are instructing U.S. citizens to shelter in place,” the embassy said.

France relocates Afghan embassy to near Kabul airport for evacuations

France is moving its Afghan embassy close to Kabul airport, adding it will remain operational for the evacuation of all French citizens who still might be in the country, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement.

“By order of the President of the Republic, the Armed Forces Ministry will deploy in the coming hours military reinforcements and aerial forces to the United Arab Emirates, so that the first evacuations to Abu Dhabi might begin,” Le Drian said.

Afghans protest in Tehran as Taliban fighters enter Kabul

Dozens of Afghan citizens in Iran demonstrated in front of the UN offices in Tehran on Sunday to protest the Taliban advances.

Videos from the demonstration show protesters chanting “death to Taliban” and “we don’t want Islamic Emirate”.

Some protestors also held banners that denounced Pakistan’s alleged support for the Taliban, using the #SanctionPakistan hashtag that has been trending for the past week.

President Ghani had reason to fear for his life: Expert

President Ashraf Ghani had a reason to fear that his life was in danger as Taliban forces closed in on Kabul, analyst told Al Jazeera.

“President Ghani has a real reason to fear that his life was under threat,” Asfandyar Mir, an expert at United States institute of peace, told Al Jazeera.

“… many Afghans will be disappointed, the contradiction in his messages until yesterday. The fact that he could not hold the country together politically or put up any kind of a military resistance will disappoint his supporters,” he said.  

Deep concern over Afghanistan’s future, violence must end: UK foreign minister

Britain’s foreign minister Dominic Raab said he was deeply concerned about the future of Afghanistan and called on the Taliban to end violence as they entered Kabul.

“Shared my deep concerns about the future for Afghanistan with FM Qureshi,” Raab wrote on Twitter, referring to Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

“Agreed it is critical that the international community is united in telling the Taliban that the violence must end and human rights must be protected.”

Taliban fighters to enter Kabul ‘to prevent looting’: Spokesman

The Taliban said they will enter the capital Kabul to prevent looting after local police deserted their posts, a spokesman for the armed group said late on Sunday.

The statement by Zabihullah Mujahid came shortly after a top Afghan peace envoy said President Ashraf Ghani had left the country.

Russia does not yet “recognise” Taliban as Afghanistan’s lawful authority

Moscow does not yet recognise the Taliban as Afghanistan’s new lawful authority, RIA state news agency quoted the Russian foreign ministry as saying on Sunday.

The ministry also told RIA that Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani was unlikely to head to Russia after leaving his country.

In Pictures: Taliban mass ‘at the gates’ of Kabul

Taliban fighters surrounded Afghanistan’s capital Kabul on Sunday as the world waited to see what negotiations around a transfer of power would result in.

Taliban forces patrol a street in Herat [Reuters]

The armed group seized nearly all of Afghanistan in just over a week, sending thousands of internally displaced people fleeing the fighting to Kabul, seeking safety.

Taliban fighters and local residents sit on an Afghan National Army vehicle in Laghman province [AFP]

In spite of hundreds of billions of dollars spent by the US and NATO to build up Afghan security forces, the Taliban swiftly defeated, co-opted, or sent Afghan security forces fleeing from wide swaths of the country.

A Taliban fighter stands guard in the city of Ghazni [Reuters]

Fighters remained “at the city’s gates” as sporadic gunfire was heard in streets that were largely quiet.

More photos here.

Turkey urges efforts to stem Afghan migrant wave

Turkey’s president said his country will work for stability in Afghanistan along with Pakistan, in order to stem a growing migration wave amid the Taliban’s countrywide offensive.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Afghans were increasingly attempting to migrate to Turkey via Iran, urging an international effort to bring stability to the country and prevent mass migration.

Erdogan was speaking at a naval ceremony with Pakistan’s president. He said Pakistan had a “vital task” to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan, where clashes have intensified. Turkish-Pakistani cooperation would be needed for this, and Turkey would use all possibilities to do so, Erdogan added.

Iran sets up camps along Afghanistan border as Taliban advance

Iran said it has prepared accommodation in three provinces bordering Afghanistan to provide temporary refuge to Afghans fleeing the conflict in their country.

“Camps have been built in border areas in three provinces,” Interior Ministry official Hossein Qasemi told Iran’s state news agency IRNA.

But he added that: “We expect those Afghan refugees to return home when the situation improves in Afghanistan.”

Thousands have been displaced by the latest conflict between government forces and Taliban fighters [Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu]

Afghanistan’s oil-rich western neighbour Iran has for years been a destination for Afghans seeking work or fleeing war. But the state of Iran’s economy, long stifled by US sanctions, has persuaded Tehran to encourage many of the more than two million Afghan refugees in the country to return home.

World reacts as Taliban closes in on Afghan capital

World reaction was swift after the Taliban closed in on Kabul as a takeover by the armed group appeared imminent on Sunday.

Click here to read about how regional and world powers reacted to the news.

NATO maintains diplomatic presence in Kabul

NATO is maintaining its diplomatic presence in Kabul and helping to keep the city’s airport running, a NATO official told Reuters.

“NATO is constantly assessing developments in Afghanistan,” the official said.

“The security of our personnel is paramount, and we continue to adjust as necessary. We support Afghan efforts to find a political solution to the conflict, which is now more urgent than ever.”

Afghans who work at different offices rush to homes after news broke that Taliban reached on the outskirts of Kabul, in Kabul, Afghanistan [EPA]

Spain says hurrying plans to airlift nationals

Spain’s defense ministry says it has not yet begun evacuating Spanish nationals and Afghan staff including translators who are expected to be flown out alongside its citizens, but was speeding up its plans.

In an emailed statement it said that “the evacuation plan for Afghanistan is being accelerated to the maximum,” adding that “details are finalised on logistics and the people who will be evacuated,” but they cannot give more details for security reasons.

Ten maps to understand Afghanistan

Over the past few days, the Taliban has taken 26 of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals.

The armed group now controls an estimated 65 percent of the country’s territory. At least 244,000 people have been internally displaced since the beginning of May, when the Taliban group began multiple offensives against the Western-backed Afghan government.

Here are 10 maps to help you understand Afghanistan.

Taliban expects peaceful transition of power in days

Suhail Shaheen, international media spokesman for the Taliban, said the group expects a peaceful transition of power in the next few days.

“We assure the people, particularly in the city of Kabul, that their properties, their lives are safe,” the spokesman said in an interview with the BBC.

“Our leadership had instructed our forces to remain at the gates of Kabul, not to enter the city.

“We are awaiting a peaceful transfer of power,” he said, adding the Taliban expected that to happen in a matter of days.

Afghan security officials stand guard at a checkpoint in Kabul [EPA-EFE]

Pakistan closely following developments in Afghanistan: foreign ministry spokesman

Pakistan said it was closely monitoring the situation in Afghanistan and making all the necessary arrangements to facilitate the evacuation of its citizens and foreign nationals from the country.

“Pakistan is closely following the unfolding situation in Afghanistan. Pakistan will continue to support the efforts for political settlement. We hope all Afghan sides will work together to resolve this internal political crisis,” foreign ministry spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri said.

“The Embassy of Pakistan in Kabul is extending necessary assistance to Pakistanis, Afghan nationals and diplomatic and international community for consular work and coordination of PIA flights.”

“A special inter-ministerial cell has been established in the Ministry of Interior to facilitate visa/arrival matters for diplomatic personnel, UN agencies, international organisations, media and others.”

Internally displaced families from northern provinces, who fled from their homes due to the fighting between Taliban and Afghan security forces, take shelter in a public park in Kabul [Hedayatullah Amid/EPA-EFE]

Germany sending A400M planes for Kabul evacuation

Germany’s army is sending A400M transport aircraft to Kabul with 30 paratroopers each on board to evacuate embassy staff and their Afghan helpers as Taliban fighters surround the Afghan capital, Bild am Sonntag reported.

The Sunday paper cited unspecified sources as saying the planes would shuttle to a nearby hub, likely the Uzbek capital Tashkent, for onward charter flights.

A defence ministry spokesman said that an evacuation mission had been prepared through the night with the greatest urgency, but he declined to comment further on the newspaper report.

US unlikely to change military strategy unless evacuation impacted: official

The United States is unlikely to change its military strategy in Kabul unless the Taliban impact the evacuation of the embassy, a US official said.

The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that the United States had not yet seen the Taliban enter Kabul in a major way

Pope Francis urges dialogue in Afghanistan

Pope Francis has called for dialogue to end the conflict in Afghanistan so its people can live in peace, security and reciprocal respect.

“I join in the unanimous worry about the situation in Afghanistan. I ask you to pray along with me to the God of peace so that the din of weapons ends and that solutions can be found around a table of dialogue,” he said to pilgrims and tourists in St Peter’s Square.

“Only this way can the martyred population of that country – men, women, elderly and children – return to their homes and live in peace and security in full reciprocal respect,” he said.

UK parliament to be recalled next week to discuss Afghanistan

The British parliament will be recalled from its summer recess next week to discuss the situation in Afghanistan, Sky News reported.

Taliban fighters and local people sit on an Afghan National Army vehicle on a street in Jalalabad [AFP]

President Ghani still in Afghanistan: Source

A source close to President Ashraf Ghani has denied reports that he has fled the country, saying the president spent most of the morning in the garden of the ARG Presidential Palace with the first lady.

Afghanistan will have a ‘peaceful transfer of power’: interior minister

Afghan Minister of the Interior Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal says there will 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.

Mirzakwal said talks were under way to ensure a peaceful transfer of power [Afghan interior ministry via Reuters]

Russia says emergency UN meeting on Afghanistan is planned

Russia is working with other countries to hold an emergency UN Security Council meeting on Afghanistan as the Taliban continues its military takeover of the country, foreign ministry official Zamir Kabulov told Russian news agencies.

“We are working on this,” Kabulov said.

Calm reigns in Kabul as Taliban, gov’t prepare to hold talks

The panic in the city of Kabul seems to have largely dissipated as most residents return to their homes and the heavy traffic clears.

The Taliban stated that they will not take Kabul by force and the Ministry of Interior confirmed that the armed group was at the city’s gates but not the main city itself.

Likewise, officials have told media a peaceful transition of power is expected, as the Taliban had previously stated.

The Taliban have said that they do not plan to take the capital city by force [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]

UK says it is working to evacuate citizens, former staff

Britain is working to protect its citizens and help other eligible former UK staff to leave Afghanistan, the interior ministry said in a tweet.

“Home Office (interior ministry) officials are right now working to protect British nationals and help former UK staff and other eligible people travel to the UK.”

Taliban spokesman: Group has not yet entered Kabul

Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban’s international media spokesman, told Al Jazeera that the group has not just yet entered Kabul city and is counting on the government’s cooperation for the peaceful transfer of power.

“There will be essential arrangement for the maintenance of security of the city so that personal property … is not harmed.

“A local province which is close to Kabul has fallen to us, and also other districts near Kabul. [Our forces] are a few kilometres away from the outskirts of the city.”

Taliban source confirms group has entered Kabul

A Taliban source has confirmed to Al Jazeera that the group has entered the province of Kabul.

“He said that the leadership is asking everybody to be calm, that they come with a message of peace,” said Al Jazeera’s Charlotte Bellis, reporting from Kabul.

“He said that we have no intention of fighting, that government buildings are safe, and that they have been instructed that if anybody does want to leave the city, that they should be given safe passage.”

Taliban leadership says Afghan capital will not be taken by force

The Taliban have released a statement online saying they have instructed their forces not to cross the gates of Kabul and take the city by force.

Instead, they say, “negotiations are under way 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.”

They also released another statement trying to reassure banks, merchants and other entrepreneurs that their property, money and institutions will not be disturbed by the armed group.

Despite the online assurances, people continue to leave the city streets and try to find ways to head home.

Senior government official urges calm

President Ghani’s chief of staff has taken to Twitter to urge the people of Kabul: “Please don’t worry. There is no problem. The situation of Kabul is under control.”

The tweet comes as the Taliban have entered Kabul province and surrounded the Afghan capital.

Ghani has not been heard from since he gave a short, pre-recorded address to the nation Saturday afternoon.

Taliban fighters and local people are pictured along the street in Jalalabad province [AFP] (AFP)

Taliban begin entering Kabul: Afghan interior ministry

The Taliban have begun entering the Afghan capital Kabul from all sides, the Afghan interior ministry said.

A Taliban leader in Doha said the group ordered its fighters to refrain from violence and allow safe passage to anyone seeking to leave, and has asked women to head to “protected areas”.

Taliban take provincial capital of Khost

An Afghan official and the Taliban say the armed group’s fighters have seized the provincial capital of Khost.

A provincial council member, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed the capture to the Associated Press.

It leaves Afghanistan’s central government in control of just Kabul and five other provincial capitals out of the country’s 34.

Helicopters landing at the US Embassy in Kabul and vehicles leave the compound as the Taliban advance [Rahmat Gul/AP]

Pakistan closes Torkham border crossing with Afghanistan

Pakistan has closed the Torkham crossing with Afghanistan after the Taliban’s takeover of the Afghan side of the border, Pakistan Minister of the Interior Sheikh Rashid Ahmad said.

Afghan civilians flee rural areas

Early on Sunday, refugees from Taliban-controlled provinces have been seen unloading belongings from taxis as families stood outside embassy gates and the city’s downtown filled up with people stocking up on supplies.

Hundreds of people slept huddled in tents or in the open in the city, by roadsides or in car parks, a resident said.

“You can see the fear in their faces.”

Taliban takes provincial Afghan capital just west of Kabul

An Afghan lawmaker and the Taliban say fighters have seized a provincial capital just west of Kabul.

The Taliban took Maidan Shahr, capital of Maidan Wardak province, on Sunday. It is about 90km (55 miles) from the national capital Kabul.

Taliban capture district in Kabul

After taking the provinces of Nangarhar and Laghman overnight, the Taliban have captured the Sarobi district, an hour east of the capital. It marks the first district in the province of Kabul to be taken by the armed group.

Taliban seize control of Nangarhar

Sources in the eastern province of Nangarhar have confirmed to Al Jazeera that Jalalabad, the capital, was handed over to the Taliban as part of a deal struck by local elders and the governor, Zia-ul Haq Amarkhil with the armed group in order to protect civilians.

Nangarhar is the 23rd province to fall, Jalalabad was the last major city other than the capital, Kabul, to be taken by the Taliban, giving them control of a road leading to the Pakistani city of Peshawar, one of the main highways into landlocked Afghanistan.

A security official in the city said the Taliban had agreed to give safe passage to government officials and security forces leaving Jalalabad.

US begins evacuating embassy in Kabul

The US has started evacuating diplomats from its embassy in Kabul, two US officials told Reuters news agency, with helicopters landing on the premises as diplomatic vehicles leave the compound.

“We have a small batch of people leaving now as we speak, a majority of the staff are ready to leave … the embassy continues to function,” one of the officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said.

The rapid helicopter shuttle runs came as wisps of smoke rose from the embassy’s roof. US officials previously said diplomats inside had begun destroying sensitive documents.

Taliban capture Daykundi

The central province of Daykundi has fallen to the Taliban, a political representative from the province told Al Jazeera. As of Sunday morning, at least 23 provinces are now in control of the Taliban.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies