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15 Aug, 2021 07:59

Taliban in talks with Afghan govt over ‘peaceful surrender’ after launching offensive on capital Kabul

Taliban in talks with Afghan govt over ‘peaceful surrender’ after launching offensive on capital Kabul

The Taliban launched an assault on Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, on Sunday, claiming it has engaged in talks with the government about a “peaceful surrender” of the city to the group.

There were media reports of Taliban representatives heading to the Presidential Palace for talks with the government of President Ashraf Ghani.   

Afghanistan’s acting interior minister, Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal, said that a transfer of power will happen peacefully, while security forces will remain in the streets to “ensure Kabul’s security.” “A transitional administration” will be formed in Afghanistan, the minister said, as quoted by Reuters.

The Taliban is expecting a “peaceful transfer of power” from the Afghan government “in the next few days,” the radical group’s spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, told the BBC.

“We assure the people, particularly in the city of Kabul, that their properties, their lives are safe,” Shaheen said, adding that the Taliban also intends to protect the rights of women and media freedom in the country.

Earlier on Sunday, the Interior Ministry said that Taliban fighters were advancing on Kabul from all sides. The capital, which is the only major urban area still under the control of the government, has been fully encircled by the militants in recent days.

Several unnamed Afghan officials have confirmed to AP that the militants have been spotted in the outskirts of Kabul, in the Kalakan, Qarabagh, and Paghman districts.

The Taliban said it had instructed its fighters to refrain from violence in the capital and allow safe passage to those who choose to leave the city. The group claimed in a statement that they had no plans of taking the capital “by force.”

Taliban fighters have for now been ordered to remain at the entry points to Kabul, one of the group’s commanders – who is currently in the Qatari capital, Doha – told Reuters. The militants have not killed or injured anybody in the city, he insisted.

The group has started talks with the Afghan government on the “peaceful surrender” of Kabul, a Taliban spokesman said. The claim hasn’t yet been confirmed by the office of President Ghani.

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Some officials have insisted there has so far been no fighting, but media reports claim sporadic gunshots have been heard in the capital. 

State TV reported that clashes between the Taliban and the security forces are underway to the north and south of Kabul, but hadn’t yet impacted the central districts of the city.

The militants have taken control of Kabul University and have already raised their flag in one district, sources told the RIA-Novosti news agency.

The Afghan government insists the situation in Kabul “remains under control.” However, the authorities have made such statements numerous times, but could do nothing to prevent a rapid offensive by the Taliban that saw the radical group seizing most of the country in a matter of weeks.

With the Taliban claiming it wasn’t seeking revenge, and promising to “forgive” those who had worked for the government, videos have emerged on social media showing what is presumed to be an Afghan commander signing a document that would hand over his entire unit and all equipment to the militants.

US diplomats were evacuated from the embassy in Kabul’s ‘green zone’ by helicopter on Sunday. A NATO official told Reuters that EU staff members have also been moved to an undisclosed, safer location within the city. Meanwhile, Russia said that it wasn’t planning to evacuate its mission from Kabul as Taliban had promised to ensure the safety in their operations of all foreign diplomats and aid workers in the country.

The Taliban launched a large-scale offensive across the country amid the withdrawal of US and NATO troops, which is scheduled to be completed by August 31. It took the group just a few weeks to take control of some 20 provincial capitals, surround Kabul, and announce it was in full control of the national borders.

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