The Taliban can celebrate victory in a war against government forces. Having reac-hed the outskirts of Ka-bul, the Taliban sent neg-otiators to the presidential palace and demand the creation of a transitional government of the country with their participation. Before that, on August 14, they captured several more provincial centers, and then took the capital in a tight ring.
Kabul under siege
The morning of August 15 was a fateful one in the history of Afghanistan. On this day, for the first time in 20 years, Taliban flags and the militants themselves reappeared on the streets of Kabul, who began to occupy one block of the city af-ter another. One of the first iconic places where they were able to gain a foothold was the university located on the outskirts. At the sa-me time, there was practically nowhere to escape fr-om Afghanistan – according to the Associated Press (A-P), by morning the Taliban had gained control over all land border crossings.
The airport continued to work, but on the morning of Sunday, August 15, only three planes took off from there: to Istanbul, Dubai and Delhi. The last of them departed at 10:45, and the next international flight, to Islamabad, has already been canceled.
Russian blogger Ilya Varlamov also left Kabul on one of the last flights of Turkish Airlines. The photo that he sent to Kommersant from the registration area shows the flight number – TK725, the plane took off on Saturday, August 14, at 10:05.
When the fighting was already within the city limits, the Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid suddenly announced: “We ordered our fighters to stay at the entrances to Kabul and not to storm the city.” “We want to avoid civilian casualties, but we did not declare a ceasefire,” he explained. “We will give the right of safe passage to anyone who wants to leave the capital Kabul, we encourage women to go to safety in the capital.”
Mohammad Suheil Sha-hin, spokesman for the Taliban mission in Doha, also spoke on Al Jazeera’s plans to “wait for a peaceful transfer of power” by depl-oying combat units on the outskirts.
At that time, according to the Afghan government, the militants had already o-ccupied the suburbs of Ka-lakan, Pagman and Garab-agh, where the Bagram airfield is located, which serv-ed as a central base for the American troops in Afghanistan.
And at 12:18 pm, AP reported that, according to their interlocutors in the Afghan government, Taliban negotiators were already heading to the presidential palace. They were safely received there – as reported by the Afghan TV channel Tolo News, the head of the country’s Interior Ministry, Abdul Satar Mirzakval, promised that power would be transferred peacefully. Another major Afghan media outlet, Khaama Press, citing a source, named the future head of the transitional government: former Interior Minister and Afghan Ambassador to Germany, Ali Ahmad Jalali. Later, this information was confirmed by Reuters.
The situation around the largest embassy in Kabul – the American one – remained unclear.
On the morning of August 15, a helicopter was seen on the roof of the American diplomatic mission. According to Reuters, he moved some of the staff from the embassy to the airport. However, given the huge staff of the American diplomatic mission, probably not everyone was able to fly away.
The Russian embassy, in turn, did not even think about evacuating. But, as Mohammad Suheil Shahin told TASS news agency, Russian diplomats have nothing to worry about. “Yes, we have good relations with Russia, and our policy in general is to ensure a safe environment for the functioning of the Russian and other embassies,” he said.
Friendship Bridge came in handy again
The fact that the end of the armed phase of the confrontation in Afghanistan was close became clear as early as Saturday evening, when the Taliban terrorist movement managed to enter Mazar-i-Sharif, the country’s northern capital, located just 60 kilometers from the Uzbek border. Ac-cording to media reports, there was practically no shooting, and an hour later photos and videos app-eared.filmed on the famous Friendship Bridge (now called “Termez-Hairaton” in honor of the nearest cit-ies) across the Amu Darya River, which connects Af-ghanistan with Uzbekistan. This bridge can be seen in the famous photographs of 1989, when the last units of Soviet troops were leaving Afghanistan along it. In fact, the same thing happened there last night, but the troops were not foreign, but Afghan, and they did not retreat solemnly, with state flags, but hastily, completely filling the roadway with jeeps.
As a reminder, on August 11, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani came to Mazar-i-Sharif and held a meeting on the formation of an anti-Taliban militia, which was supposed to defend the city at all costs. The militia commanders were the leaders of ethnic communities in the north of Afghanistan – Tajik Ata Mohammad Nur and Uzbek, Marshal Abdul-Rashid Dostum. But already at midnight, Mr. Noor explained on his Twitter why he left the city.
“Unfortunately, despite our resistance, all government and military equipment was transferred to the Taliban as a result of an organized and cowardly conspiracy. They organized a conspiracy to catch Marshal Dostum and me too, but they failed, “the leader of the Tajik community wrote, promising that” our path will not end there. ” And soon he published another tweet – that a similar fate threatens Kabul, be-cause “the conspiracy was very deep.” These words turned out to be prophetic.
It is assumed that both Mr. Nur and Marshal Dost-um were able to find refuge in Uzbekistan – at least ab-out the leader of the Afghan Uzbeks, this was confirmed by a source of the RIA Novosti news agency.
However, many other Afghans who tried to cross the border with Uzbekistan at night were less fortunate. “Most of the Afghan citizens who have accumulated on the Afghan part of the bridge left the bridge and the adjacent territory on their own. This became possible as a result of the active political and diplomatic measures taken, as well as the carried out explanatory work, ”the Uzbek Foreign Ministry reported on the morning of August 15, stating that the situation was“ defused ”. At the same time, photographs of a completely empty bridge appeared.
Nevertheless, a group of 84 Afghan soldiers who crossed the border first and, apparently, not across the bridge, were nevertheless accepted in Uzbekistan.
With the capture of Mazar-i-Sharif, Uzbekistan became, in fact, the only country that had diplomatic missions both in the territories controlled by the Tali-ban and in Kabul, which remained the last stronghold of the government. As the representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan, Yusup Kab-ulzhanov, admitted, this opportunity is actively used in Tashkent. “Currently, the republic’s authorities are negotiating the return of refugees from Afghanistan with the official governm-ent of Afghanistan and representatives of the Taliban,” he told TASS, noting that the authorities are not going to close the consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif. At the same time, the Russian consulate in this city was closed back in July.