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Taliban Have Seized the Presidential Palace

Government collapses as Taliban declare the war 'over'
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 16, 2021 1:20 AM CDT
Taliban Have Seized the Presidential Palace
Taliban fighters take control of Afghan presidential palace after the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021.   (AP Photo/Zabi Karimi)

(Newser) – Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, on Sunday fell to the Taliban, completing the militant group's takeover of the country so quickly that even the Taliban's co-founder admitted in an evening video statement the group was surprised at the speed. Hours earlier, the Taliban had entered Kabul as Afghanistan's president fled. The militants quickly seized the presidential palace, the BBC reports, claiming victory as the government collapsed after the two-decade-long presence of a US-led coalition in the country ended. "The war is over," a spokesperson declared. More:

  • Chaos: The word is being used in numerous articles about the state of Afghanistan, with residents and foreigners alike reportedly trying to get out; some people reportedly abandoned their cars and fled for the border on foot. A witness at Kabul's international airport says people were scrambling to get on planes and airport staffers had fled their posts.
  • US embassy: The flag was taken down at the US embassy in Kabul on Sunday and the embassy was relocated to the airport, with US diplomats continuing to evacuate and embassy staff being instructed to destroy documents and electronic devices in order to keep sensitive information from falling into the Taliban's hands. The US ambassador remains at the relocated embassy. Other countries have also relocated their embassies or suspended operations entirely.

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  • More troops: After previously announcing 5,000 troops would be deployed to Afghanistan amid the Taliban takeover, the Biden administration on Sunday announced an additional 1,000 troops would be added to that number to help evacuate Americans and Afghans who helped with the US mission, ABC News reports.
  • What's next? In the statement from Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, he said the group now faces the challenge of ruling. It is expected to declare a new Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan soon, the Guardian reports. For more on what comes next, see the ASPI Strategist or the Atlantic Council.
  • How this is playing for President Biden: The Guardian refers to it as "deeply humiliating," while an analysis piece at CNN bears the headline, "Biden's botched Afghan exit is a disaster at home and abroad long in the making." Fox News says Biden's predictions about what would happen after the US withdrew its troops "fail[ed] spectacularly," while the Wall Street Journal says it's "shameful" that Biden appears to be washing his hands of the country. The Washington Post quotes Biden in what it calls a "cold-eyed approach" to the situation: "One more year, or five more years, of US military presence would not have made a difference if the Afghan military cannot or will not hold its own country," he said Saturday night. "And an endless American presence in the middle of another country’s civil conflict was not acceptable to me."
  • Also not playing well is the fact that White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki is apparently out of the office from Sunday through next weekend, Yahoo News reports.
  • Meanwhile: A trending search involving CNN supposedly praising Taliban fighters for wearing face coverings is based on a fake article from satire site the Babylon Bee.
(Read more Afghanistan stories.)

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