Afghan minister confirms 'peaceful transfer of power' to 'transitional government'

15 August 2021, 07:54 | Updated: 15 August 2021, 15:35

Taliban fighters sit over a vehicle on a street in Laghman province on Sunday
Taliban fighters sit over a vehicle on a street in Laghman province on Sunday. Picture: Getty
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Afghanistan's acting interior minister has confirmed a "peaceful transfer of power" to a "transitional government" as the Taliban surrounds Kabul.

The group headed to the presidential palace for talks with the government about a transfer of power.

A Taliban spokesman said they had begun discussing a "peaceful surrender" of Kabul with President Ashraf Ghani, who has reportedly now left the country for Tajikistan.

Afghanistan's acting interior minister said a transition of power will happen "peacefully" and that security forces will "ensure Kabul's security".

The group were said to have met little resistance when entering the Afghan capital from "all sides".

Read more: Taliban approaches Kabul as another crucial city falls

Read more: PM defends UK's role in Afghanistan as first troops deployed to aid evacuation

Taliban militants have blitzed their way through Afghanistan
Taliban militants have blitzed their way through Afghanistan. Picture: Alamy

A Taliban statement said: "We don't want a single, innocent Afghan civilian to be injured or killed as we take charge of Kabul but we have not declared a ceasefire."

Earlier, the group took control of Bagram, home to a former Soviet airbase and the UK-US military's headquarters for 19 years.

Following the developments, the UK Parliament will be recalled this week to discuss the ongoing crisis. MPs will sit in the Commons for five hours from 9:30am on Wednesday, No10 confirmed to LBC.

The Taliban's grip on Afghanistan tightened after it seized Jalalabad, leaving the capital Kabul as the last key city under government control.

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Authorities in Jalalabad relinquished control without a fight as the insurgents continued their blitz across the country on Sunday.

The fall of the city leaves the seemingly defunct central government in charge of just Kabul and seven other provincial capitals.

Gunfire has reportedly been heard on the streets of Kabul and the Taliban is now believed to control all of Afghanistan's border crossings.

It left President Ashraf Ghani, who addressed the nation on Saturday for the first time since the offensive began, even more isolated and, ultimately, defeated.

Despite negotiating with warlords in the latest city to fall just days earlier, their surrender to the Taliban leaves the Afghan leader without a military option.

The Taliban began entering the outskirts of Afghanistan's capital Kabul on Sunday
The Taliban began entering the outskirts of Afghanistan's capital Kabul on Sunday. Picture: Getty

On Sunday, the militants posted photos online showing them in the governor's office in Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province.

Abrarullah Murad, a politician from the province said the group seized the city after elders negotiated the overhaul of its government.

Meanwhile, ongoing talks in Qatar - where a Taliban office is situated - have also failed to curb the advance as thousands of civilians flee into Kabul.

It comes as British, US and Nato forces are due to withdraw from the country after two decades of conflict and attempted nation-building.

On Sunday, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace warned it is "arrogant" to think Britain could unilaterally prevent the nation from falling back under the group's control.

Some 600 UK troops are being deployed to Kabul to help evacuation efforts. Remaining nationals and Afghans who worked with British forces - who face reprisals if they fall into the hands of the Taliban - will be rescued from the oncoming blitz.

The growing chaos has been met with anger and frustration among MPs and military veterans who served in the country, despite the situation being prompted by President Joe Biden's decision to withdraw all remaining US troops from the country by 11 September.

The UK Government has been accused of abandoning Afghanistan to its fate after it - along with other international allies - announced it was following Washington's lead.

But writing in The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Wallace rejected claims that it represented "a failure of leadership and a betrayal of Afghanistan".

He said that when the US announced its plan he had tried, without success, to find other allies who would take their place but without them, the UK could not "go it alone".

"A unilateral force would very quickly be viewed as an occupying force and, no matter how powerful the country that sends it, history shows us what happens to them in Afghanistan," he said.

"It would be arrogant to think we could solve Afghanistan unilaterally. The solution can only come if the force is multinational and the nations involved bring to bear all the tools of nation-building - hard power, soft power, foreign aid, and political alliances.

"And from the outset we need to be realistic that you have to manage these types of problems for decades, not fix them overnight."

He said the position had been made more difficult by a deal which "wrongly suggested to the Taliban that they had won".

With the militants now in Kabul, it was reported that arrangements were being made to airlift out the British ambassador Sir Laurie Bristow by Monday evening.

The Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) had intended Sir Laurie and a small team of officials to remain at the airport with other international diplomats.

However, The Sunday Telegraph reported that their departure had been brought forward amid fears the airport could be overrun as the Taliban continue their lightning advance through the country.

The FCDO declined to comment.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden announced that he was increasing the number of US troops being deployed to the country to help with the withdrawal of American nationals to 5,000.