Live: Taliban enter outskirts of Kabul as US evacuates embassy

A US Chinook helicopter flies over the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 15, 2021.
A US Chinook helicopter flies over the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 15, 2021. © Rahmat Gul, AP

Taliban fighters entered the outskirts of Afghanistan’s capital Kabul from all sides on Sunday as panicked workers fled government offices and helicopters began landing at the US Embassy in the Afghan capital, further tightening the militants’ grip on the country. Follow our live blog for all the latest developments.

Taliban fighters were ordered to wait on the outskirts of Afghanistan’s capital Kabul on Sunday as the government conceded it was preparing for a “transfer of power”.

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Negotiations are under way to avoid bloodshed in Kabul, the Afghan government said early Sunday. “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,” Interior Minister Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal said in a recorded speech.

The Taliban’s imminent takeover triggered fear and panic in Kabul among residents fearful of the group’s hardline brand of Islam. Many streets in Kabul were jammed with cars and people trying to get home or to the airport, residents said. Police were taking off their uniforms and putting on shalwar kameez, said one resident, referring to traditional South Asian clothing.

Amid scenes of panic, Western powers continue to evacuate their nationals. US President Joe Biden ordered the deployment of an additional 1,000 US troops to help secure the emergency evacuation of embassy employees and thousands of Afghans who worked for American forces and now fear Taliban reprisals. Britain is to abandon its diplomatic presence in Afghanistan as 600 military personnel evacuate key British nationals and set up a processing centre to help 5,500 people escape.

Russia, on the other hand, is not planning to evacuate its embassy in Kabul, as it is one of the countries that have received guarantees from the Taliban regarding the safety of their diplomats.