Taliban on cusp of taking back control in Afghanistan

Taliban at the doors of Kabul as they reclaim Afghanistan 20 years after US-led coalition forces drove them out of power

Taliban fighters celebrating and parading in the streets of Jalalabad, the key eastern city in Afghanistan that fell without resistance
Taliban fighters celebrating and parading in the streets of Jalalabad, the key eastern city in Afghanistan that fell without resistance

Taliban leaders have ordered their fighters to stay at the gates of Afghanistan’s capital Kabul as talks for a peaceful transition of power continue.

The development comes hot on the heels of multiple reports from the capital on Sunday morning that Taliban fighters had started entering the capital “from all sides”.
The Taliban issued a statement on Sunday saying that they have ordered their fighters to stay at entry points to the capital, citing the risk to the densely populated civilian population.

The statement says responsibility for the security of the city remains with the government for now and asserts that talks for the peaceful transfer of power are continuing.

The statement urges Afghans to stay in the country and insists the Taliban wants people “from all walks of life, to see themselves in a future Islamic system with a responsible government that serves and is acceptable to all”.

However, reports from Kabul say gunfire has been heard and Taliban militants with flags seen on the streets.

Kabul is the last area not under the complete control of the Taliban after the militant group took all regional capitals in a relentless advance that saw the Afghan military putting up very little resistance despite billions of dollars invested in it by the US over two decades.

The imminent takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban comes 20 years after US-led coalition forces toppled the regime in the wake of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on US soil by Al Qaeda.

US President Joe Biden announced earlier this year the complete withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan by September after two decades of war, insisting it was up to the Afghan people to chart their own future.

Various countries started evacuating diplomatic staff as the Taliban advance across the country failed to be halted by the Afghan military.

Meanwhile, an Afghan MP in Kabul, Farzana Kochai, told the BBC how people were desperately trying to flee the capital.

“I don't know, they can't go to anywhere, there's nowhere left. The aircraft may be full and the flights from Kabul today, I checked with some friends who are going there, out of Kabul, like to India or any other neighbouring countries.

“They're saying that the flights are full and we are stuck here, those who are going to go out and you know, where can they go, they have no choice, they have to stay here.”

She said women in other parts of the country, where the Taliban have already taken control, told her they were no longer going to work or to school.

“For the women, the situation is as worse as it was expected. Women will be jailed in their houses, is that what will happen, is that what it will be like? For now, yes. but we'll see if it changes,” she said.

The Taliban practice an extreme form of Islam that requires women to wear the burqa, a full body covering, and prevents them from working and getting an education. Men are also expected to leave long beards and western music and culture is prohibited.

The Taliban entered direct talks with the US back in 2018. In February 2020, the two sides struck a peace deal in Doha, Qatar, that committed the US to withdrawal and the Taliban to preventing attacks on US forces.

Other promises included not allowing al-Qaeda or other militants to operate in areas the Taliban controlled and proceeding with national peace talks.

But in the year that followed, the Taliban continued to target Afghan security forces and civilians. Now, as the US prepares to complete its withdrawal, the group has advanced rapidly across all the country much to the surprise of many.