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Taliban invade the palatial home of top Afghan warlord and US ally General Dostum – amid claims fighters have reached the outskirts of Kabul which will fall in HOURS while Brits and Americans evacuate

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Taliban invade the palatial home of top Afghan warlord and US ally General Dostum - amid claims fighters have reached the outskirts of Kabul which will fall in HOURS while Brits and Americans evacuate

 

  • Taliban invade the palatial home of top Afghan warlord and US ally General Dostum – amid claims fighters have reached the outskirts of Kabul which will fall in HOURS while Brits and Americans evacuate
  • Insurgents tightened grip on Afghanistan by capturing Mazar-e-Sharif – a heavily defended city in the north
  • Fighters were then filmed raiding the luxurious home of infamous warlord Army Marshal Rashid Dostum
  • In a statement last night, US President Joe Biden blamed Donald Trump and the Afghan army for the carnage
  • He said he ‘will not pass this war onto a fifth president’ and criticsed the Afghan Army for failing to fight 

Taliban fighters have invaded the palatial home of top Afghan warlord and US ally and videoed  themselves lounging on his gold furniture and inspecting his golden tea set – as their advance closes on capital Kabul amid a scramble to get Westerners out.

General Rashid Dostum’s home is in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif which fell to the Taliban yesterday and now there are claims that the advancing fighters have reached the outskirts of Kabul.

Dostum was a key US ally during the 20 year campaign against the Taliban and famously fought with the Special Forces ‘horse soldiers’ shortly after 9/11.

Before 9/11 he was an infamous warlord who was known for crushing prisoners alive beneath the wheels of a tank and in recent years he was a senior figure in the Afghan National Army. He is believed to have escaped.

After the fall of Mazar-e-Sharif there are unverified claims of fighting on the outskirts of Kabul, and the Taliban is certainly nearing artillery range of the capital – with some predicting it could fall within hours.

The British embassy will be evacuated on Sunday and US President Joe Biden yesterday increased the number of troops he is sending to Afghanistan to 5,000 to help evacuate the American embassy within 72 hours.

In a statement last night, Biden blamed Donald Trump and the Afghan army for the carnage and said his predecessor cut a deal that left the warlords ‘in the strongest position militarily since 2001’.

He said: 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.

‘I was the fourth President to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan—two Republicans, two Democrats. I would not, and will not, pass this war onto a fifth.’

He also announced that he was increasing the number of US troops being deployed to protect the withdrawal from the US embassy to 5,000.

Around 1,000 service members are already on the ground and 3,000 more were already being sent next week, before officials announced the deployment of an extra 1,000 as the situation escalated Saturday.

On Saturday, fighters wielding guns were filmed walking Dostum’s around the luxurious oval-shaped room, filled with chandeliers and gold furniture, and posing in chairs.

Videos from Kandahar have also showed Taliban fighters seizing grounded US-made Blackhawk helicopters and taking to the air in Russian aircraft after turning their crew.

It came following the fall of Mazar-e-Sharif, the country’s fourth largest city, which Afghan forces and two powerful former warlords had pledged to defend.

The move hands the insurgents control over all of northern Afghanistan, and confines the Western-backed government to the centre and east.

Fighters wielding guns were filmed walking around the luxurious oval-shaped room, filled with chandeliers and gold furniture, and posing in chairs
Fighters wielding guns were filmed walking around the luxurious oval-shaped room, filled with chandeliers and gold furniture, and posing in chairs
The Taliban have ransacked the palatial home of top Afghan warlord and US ally General Dostum. They are pictured with a golden tea set
The Taliban have ransacked the palatial home of top Afghan warlord and US ally General Dostum. They are pictured with a golden tea set
A fighter poses in front of a gold cabinet at the home of Army Marshal Rashid Dostum - an infamous warlord and a former Afghan vice president who has survived the past 40 years of conflict by cutting deals and switching sides
A fighter poses in front of a gold cabinet at the home of Army Marshal Rashid Dostum – an infamous warlord and a former Afghan vice president who has survived the past 40 years of conflict by cutting deals and switching sides
A Taliban fighter poses with a US-made Afghan air force Blackhawk helicopter at captured Kandahar airfield
A Taliban fighter poses with a US-made Afghan air force Blackhawk helicopter at captured Kandahar airfield
Taliban fighters have seized helicopters as they continue their advance through Afghanistan, which is now approaching the outskirts of Kabul
Taliban fighters have seized helicopters as they continue their advance through Afghanistan, which is now approaching the outskirts of Kabul
The Taliban have moved to within seven miles of Kabul, and taken over swathes of territory across the rest of Afghanistan. The warlords now control 19 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces
The Taliban have moved to within seven miles of Kabul, and taken over swathes of territory across the rest of Afghanistan. The warlords now control 19 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces

Biden’s statement in full: ‘I will not pass this war on to a fifth president’

‘Over the past several days I have been in close contact with my national security team to give them direction on how to protect our interests and values as we end our military mission in Afghanistan.

First, based on the recommendations of our diplomatic, military, and intelligence teams, I have authorized the deployment of approximately 5,000 US troops to make sure we can have an orderly and safe drawdown of US personnel and other allied personnel and an orderly and safe evacuation of Afghans who helped our troops during our mission and those at special risk from the Taliban advance.

Second, I have ordered our armed forces and our intelligence community to ensure that we will maintain the capability and the vigilance to address future terrorist threats from Afghanistan.

Third, I have directed the Secretary of State to support President Ghani and other Afghan leaders as they seek to prevent further bloodshed and pursue a political settlement. Secretary Blinken will also engage with key regional stakeholders.

Fourth, we have conveyed to the Taliban representatives in Doha, via our Combatant Commander, that any action on their part on the ground in Afghanistan, that puts US personnel or our mission at risk there, will be met with a swift and strong US military response.

Fifth, I have placed Ambassador Tracey Jacobson in charge of a whole of government effort to process, transport, and relocate Afghan special immigrant visa applicants and other Afghan allies. Our hearts go out to the brave Afghan men and women who are now at risk. We are working to evacuate thousands of those who helped our cause and their families.

That is what we are going to do. Now let me be clear about how we got here.

America went to Afghanistan 20 years ago to defeat the forces that attacked this country on September 11th. That mission resulted in the death of Osama Bin Laden over a decade ago and the degradation of al Qaeda. And yet, 10 years later, when I became President, a small number of US troops still remained on the ground, in harm’s way, with a looming deadline to withdraw them or go back to open combat.

Over our country’s 20 years at war in Afghanistan, America has sent its finest young men and women, invested nearly $1 trillion dollars, trained over 300,000 Afghan soldiers and police, equipped them with state-of-the-art military equipment, and maintained their air force as part of the longest war in US history. 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. And an endless American presence in the middle of another country’s civil conflict was not acceptable to me.

When I came to office, I inherited a deal cut by my predecessor—which he invited the Taliban to discuss at Camp David on the eve of 9/11 of 2019—that left the Taliban in the strongest position militarily since 2001 and imposed a May 1, 2021 deadline on US forces. Shortly before he left office, he also drew US forces down to a bare minimum of 2,500. Therefore, when I became President, I faced a choice—follow through on the deal, with a brief extension to get our forces and our allies’ forces out safely, or ramp up our presence and send more American troops to fight once again in another country’s civil conflict. I was the fourth President to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan—two Republicans, two Democrats. I would not, and will not, pass this war onto a fifth.’

Abas Ebrahimzada, a lawmaker from the Balkh province where the city is located, said the national army surrendered first, which prompted pro-government militias and other forces to lose morale and give up in the face of a Taliban onslaught launched earlier Saturday.

Ebrahimzada said both Dostum and Ata Mohammad Noor, former warlords who command thousands of fighters, had fled the province and their whereabouts were unknown.

Noor said in a Facebook post that his defeat in Mazar-e-Sharif was orchestrated and blamed the government forces, saying they handed their weapons and equipment to the Taliban. He did not say who was behind the conspiracy, nor offer details, but said he and Dostum ‘are in a safe place now’

The Taliban have made major advances in recent days, including capturing Herat and Kandahar, the country’s second- and third-largest cities. They now control about 24 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, leaving the Western-backed government with a smattering of provinces in the center and east, as well as the capital, Kabul.

On Saturday, the Taliban captured all of Logar province, just south of Kabul, and detained local officials, said Hoda Ahmadi, a lawmaker from the province. She said the Taliban have reached the Char Asyab district, just 11 kilometers (7 miles) south of the capital.

Later, the insurgents took over Mihterlam, the capital of Laghman province, northeast of Kabul, without a fight, according to Zefon Safi, a lawmaker from the province.

On Saturday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani delivered a televised speech, his first public appearance since the recent Taliban gains. He vowed not to give up the ‘achievements’ of the 20 years since the U.S. toppled the Taliban after the 9/11 attacks.

The U.S. has continued holding peace talks between the government and the Taliban in Qatar this week, and the international community has warned that a Taliban government brought about by force would be shunned. But the insurgents appear to have little interest in making concessions as they rack up victories on the battlefield.

‘We have started consultations, inside the government with elders and political leaders, representatives of different levels of the community as well as our international allies,’ Ghani said. ‘Soon the results will be shared with you,’ he added, without elaborating further.

Hours later, his forces suffered one of the biggest setbacks since the Taliban offensive began.

Mazar-e-Sharif, home to a famous blue-tiled Muslim shrine, was a stronghold of the Northern Alliance, ethnic militias who helped the U.S. topple the Taliban in 2001.

In 1997, as many as 2,000 Taliban fighters were captured and killed by forces loyal to Mohammed Mohaqiq, a Shiite Hazara leader, and his ethnic Uzbek allies. The following year, the Taliban returned and killed thousands of Hazaras in Mazar-e-Sharif in a revenge attack.

Several makeshift camps had sprung up around Mazar-e-Sharif where mostly ethnic Hazaras had taken shelter after fleeing their homes in outlying areas. They said the Taliban had detained relatives who sought to leave their districts and in some cases burned schools.

Tens of thousands of Afghans have fled their homes, with many fearing a return to the Taliban’s oppressive rule. The group had previously governed Afghanistan under a harsh version of Islamic law in which women were forbidden to work or attend school, and could not leave their homes without a male relative accompanying them.

Salima Mazari, one of the few female district governors in the country, expressed fears about a Taliban takeover earlier Saturday in an interview from Mazar-e-Sharif, before it fell.

‘There will be no place for women,’ said Mazari, who governs a district of 36,000 people near the northern city. ‘In the provinces controlled by the Taliban, no women exist there anymore, not even in the cities. They are all imprisoned in their homes.’

A video shows Taliban fighters making their way around a luxurious living room area at the home of the former major

The ransacking of the former commander's home is a statement of intent from the Taliban, who are rapidly approaching the capital overnight

Taliban fighters have seized helicopters as they continue their advance through Afghanistan, which is now approaching the outskirts of Kabul
Taliban fighters have seized helicopters as they continue their advance through Afghanistan, which is now approaching the outskirts of Kabul

The Taliban appointed hard-line cleric Mujeeb Rahman Ansari as women’s affairs minister in Herat, according to a prominent women’s activist from the city who did not want to be identified because she fears for her safety. She described Ansari as being ‘strongly against women’s rights.’

He rose to prominence about 2015 and became infamous for dozens of billboards he installed in Herat that told women to wear Islamic hijab and demonized those who would promote women’s rights.

The Taliban also captured Paktika province and small Kunar province, both bordering Pakistan, as well as Faryab province in the north and the central province of Daykundi, lawmakers from those areas said Saturday.

Sayed Hussan Gerdezi, a lawmaker from Paktia province, said the Taliban seized most of its local capital, Gardez, but battles with government forces were still underway. The Taliban said they controlled the city.

The withdrawal of foreign troops and the swift collapse of Afghanistan’s own forces – despite hundreds of billions of dollars in U.S. aid over the years – has raised fears the Taliban could return to power or that the country could be shattered by factional fighting, as it was after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989. It’s also prompted many American and Afghan veterans of the conflict to question whether two decades of blood and treasure was worth it.

Afghans have been streaming into Kabul’s international airport in recent days, desperate to fly out, even as more American troops have arrived to help partially evacuate the U.S. Embassy.

U.S. President Joe Biden has authorized an additional 1,000 U.S. troops for deployment to Afghanistan, according to a statement from a defense official. That raises to roughly 5,000 the number of U.S. troops to ensure what Biden calls an ‘orderly and safe drawdown’ of American and allied personnel. U.S. troops will also help in the evacuation of Afghans who worked with the military during the nearly two-decade war.

The first Marines arrived Friday. The rest are expected by Sunday, and their deployment has raised questions about whether the administration will meet its Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline.

The U.S. Air Force has carried out several airstrikes to aid its Afghan allies on the ground but they appear to have done little to stem the Taliban’s advance. A B-52 bomber and other warplanes traversed the country’s airspace Saturday, flight-tracking data showed.

The U.S. invaded shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, which al-Qaida planned and carried out while being sheltered by Taliban. After rapidly ousting the Taliban, the U.S. shifted toward nation-building, hoping to create a modern Afghan state after decades of war and unrest.

Earlier this year, Biden announced a timeline for the withdrawal of all U.S. troops by the end of August. His predecessor, President Donald Trump, had reached an agreement with the Taliban to pave the way for a U.S. pullout.

Biden’s announcement set the latest offensive in motion. The Taliban, who have long controlled large parts of the Afghan countryside, moved quickly to seize provincial capitals, border crossings and other key infrastructure.

‘The security situation in the city is getting worse,’ said Kawa Basharat, a resident in Mazar-e-Sharif, hours before the city fell. ‘I want peace and stability; the fighting should be stopped.’

Meanwhile, Taliban fighters also seized $6million US Blackhawk helicopters alongside tons of American equipment as they took to the skies in captured Russian choppers amid their advance through Afghanistan.

A series of videos being shared on social media show insurgents flying the Kremlin-made mi-17 aircraft around the city of Kandahar, with concerns continuing to grow over the militants’ ongoing grab for power.

Even more seismic, however, is the evidence that the Taliban have also seized American-made Blackhawk helicopters, made famous in the 2001 Ridley Scott blockbuster.

The Afghan government pilots who fly the operational Russian helicopters have been turned to the Taliban, while the US helicopters are likely to be grounded by a lack of spare parts from the United States.

The White House has spent billions of dollars on supplying the Afghan military with the necessary weapons and equipment to wipe out the Taliban, but following the collapse of local armed forces, their investment is now effectively being used by the insurgents themselves as they bid to control more and more major cities.

Social media in recent days has been awash with clips of fighters seizing weapons caches, but the taking of such high profile helicopters represents a significant statement of intent.

Fighters were again seen posing on the back of a vehicle in the city of Herat, west of Kabul, after they took the province from Afghan government. The Taliban also seized two more provinces and approached the outskirts of the capital.

A series of videos being shared on social media show insurgents flying the Russian-made aircraft around the city of Kandahar, with concerns continuing to grow over the militants' ongoing grab for power

The Afghan government pilots who fly the operational Russian helicopters have been turned to the Taliban, while the US helicopters are likely to be grounded by a lack of spare parts from the United States
The Afghan government pilots who fly the operational Russian helicopters have been turned to the Taliban, while the US helicopters are likely to be grounded by a lack of spare parts from the United States
The White House has spent billions of dollars on supplying the Afghan military with the necessary weapons and equipment to wipe out the Taliban, but following the collapse of local armed forces, their investment is now effectively being used by the insurgents themselves as they bid to control more and more major cities
The White House has spent billions of dollars on supplying the Afghan military with the necessary weapons and equipment to wipe out the Taliban, but following the collapse of local armed forces, their investment is now effectively being used by the insurgents themselves as they bid to control more and more major cities

The seizing of widely-recognised American Blackhawk helicopters, worth some $6m, is considered a significant statement

.

Meanwhile, the US Embassy in Afghanistan will be evacuated in 72 hours under the protection of the military, and some staffers have already arrived at the Kabul international airport, according to reports.

US defense officials told CBS that it could be just a matter of a couple days before the Taliban seizes control of Kabul, a city with more than four million people.

Before the middle of next week, everyone will have been evacuated from the Embassy except for special agents from the Bureau of Diplomatic Security Service and top decisionmakers, including the ambassador, CBS reported.

Security engineers will also stay behind to continue to shred and burn sensitive materials like documents, electronic devices and items with embassy or agency logos, American flags ‘or items which could be misused in propaganda efforts.’

News about the evacuation broke shortly after the Taliban took control of the Afghan northern stronghold of Mazar-i-Sharif Saturday, which was one of the last three major cities under government control.

‘The army is not fighting. It is only Atta (Muhammad) Noor and (Marshal Abdul Rashid) Dostum’s militias defending the city,’ Mohammad Ibrahim Khairandesh, a former provincial council member who now lives in the city, told The New York Times. ‘The situation is critical, and it’s getting worse.’

Dostum is an infamous warlord and a former Afghan vice president who has survived the past 40 years of war by cutting deals and switching sides, and Noor is longtime power broker and warlord in Balkh Province who fought the Soviets in the 1980s and the Taliban in the 1990s, according to The Times.

The Taliban now controls territories to the North, South and West of Kabul and is squeezing the throat of Afghanistan’s capital city, which is where the US Embassy is located and thousands of refugees are trying to flee the country.

The US military is preparing to lower the American flag over the Embassy – if the State Department gives the order – signaling its closure.

It comes as Sir Keir Starmer turned up the pressure on the Prime Minister to support the Afghanistan government as he warned the crisis ‘undermines the legacy of British soldiers’ and raises the terror threat.

The Taliban is now fighting Afghan Government forces just seven miles from Kabul as UK troops head to the capital to evacuate Britons before militants overwhelm the country.

And Afghan President  Ashraf Ghani is appealing for help from the international community. He said:  ‘We have started consultations, inside the government with elders and political leaders, representatives of different levels of the community as well as our international allies,’

The Labour leader Sir Keir suggested the situation in Afghanistan, which has seen the Taliban seize large swathes of the country, now poses the risk of increasing international terrorism.

Discussing the unfolding scenes in the country, Sir Starmer told Sky News: ‘We have obligations to Afghanistan, we made promises to Afghanistan, and we cannot just walk away and let this turn into a humanitarian crisis, and probably a refugee crisis as well.

‘Because there is a real risk now that international terrorism will take hold again in Afghanistan, so we can’t walk away.

‘We can’t undermine the legacy of the last 20 years. There are families across the country who have lost loved ones. We should be proud of what they did but we can’t just turn our backs.’

The Taliban is now fighting Afghan Government forces just seven miles from Kabul as UK troops head to the capital to evacuate Britons before militants overwhelm the country. Pictured: A Taliban fighter in Afghanistan today

People arriving from Afghanistan make their way at the Friendship Gate crossing point at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border town of Chaman, Pakistan
People arriving from Afghanistan make their way at the Friendship Gate crossing point at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border town of Chaman, Pakistan
An Afghan policeman stands guard at a checkpoint along the road in Kabul
An Afghan policeman stands guard at a checkpoint along the road in Kabul

The Labour leader’s words come as Boris Johnson said on Friday night that it is not ‘realistic’ to expect outside powers to impose a ‘combat solution’ on Afghanistan as the Taliban’s surging advance closes on Kabul and British and US troops start to arrive to evacuate Westerners.

The Prime Minister said: ‘There isn’t a military solution. Thanks to the efforts of the UK armed services and all the sacrifices they made we have seen no al Qaida attacks against the West for a very long time.’

‘I think we have got to be realistic about the power of the UK or any power to impose a military solution — a combat solution — in Afghanistan.’

The Taliban is now fighting Afghan Government forces just seven miles from Kabul as UK troops head to the capital to evacuate Britons before militants overwhelm the country.

Taliban fighters have seized more territory just south of Afghanistan‘s capital and launched a multi-pronged assault on Mazar-e-Sharif, a major city in the north defended by powerful former warlords, today.

The Taliban captured all of Logar province, just south of the capital, Kabul, and detained local officials, said Hoda Ahmadi, a politician from the province. She said the Taliban have reached the Char Asyab district, just seven miles south of Kabul.

The insurgents have also captured the capital of Paktika, bordering Pakistan, according to Khalid Asad, a lawmaker from the province.

He said fighting broke out in Sharana early Saturday but ended after local elders intervened to negotiate a pullout. He added the governor and other officials surrendered and were on their way to Kabul.

People, including young children, wait to cross into Afghanistan, at the Friendship Gate crossing point at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border town of Chaman, Pakistan

Refugees flooded the Kabul in recent days as the Taliban continues to circle the city

A Taliban flag flies from the clocktower of the Herat provincial official office, in Herat, Afghanistan, west of Kabul

A man sells Taliban flags  on a bustling street in the Herat province, west of Kabul, Afghanistan
A man sells Taliban flags  on a bustling street in the Herat province, west of Kabul, Afghanistan

The Taliban have also captured much of northern, western and southern Afghanistan less than three weeks before the United States is set to withdraw its last troops.

Munir Ahmad Farhad, a spokesman for the provincial governor in northern Balkh province, meanwhile said the Taliban attacked the city of Mazar-e-Sharif from several directions, setting off heavy fighting on its outskirts. There was no immediate word on casualties.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had flown to Mazar-e-Sharif on Wednesday to rally the city’s defences, meeting with several militia commanders allied with the government.

Today he said he will not give up the ‘achievements’ of the last 20 years and that ‘consultations’ are under way, in a brief and vague televised address — his first public appearance in days.

He said: ‘We have started consultations, inside the government with elders and political leaders, representatives of different levels of the community as well as our international allies.

Plumes of smoke rise into the sky after fighting between the Taliban and Afghan security personnel in Kandahar, Afghanistan, southwest of Kabul

Taliban fighters stand guard inside the city of Ghazni, southwest of Kabul, Afghanistan, yesterday
Taliban fighters stand guard inside the city of Ghazni, southwest of Kabul, Afghanistan, yesterday

‘Soon the results will be shared with you,’ he added, without elaborating further.

The Taliban captured much of southern Afghanistan in recent days in a rapid offensive that has raised fears of a full takeover. Their lightning advance has left the Western-backed government in control of a smattering of provinces in the center and east, as well as Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif.

Foreign forces’ withdrawal and the swift retreat of Afghanistan’s own troops — despite hundreds of billions of dollars in US aid over the years — has raised fears the Taliban could return to power or the country could be plunged into civil war.

The first Marines from a contingent of 3,000 arrived on Friday to help partially evacuate the US Embassy. The rest are set to arrive by Sunday, and their deployment has raised questions about whether the administration will meet its August 31 withdrawal deadline.

And the first of 600 British troops will land in Kabul today to to evacuate Britons. Boris Johnson said last night there ‘isn’t a military solution’ to be had in Afghanistan.

But today, the former head of the army said Britain should consider launching a humanitarian aid operation to alleviate the growing refugee crisis in Afghanistan.

Taliban fighters seized a province just south of Afghanistan's capital and launched a multi-pronged assault on Mazar-e-Sharif, a major city in the north defended by powerful former warlords, today. Pictured: Militants loyal to warlord Ata Mohammad Noor in Mazar-e-Sharif
Taliban fighters seized a province just south of Afghanistan’s capital and launched a multi-pronged assault on Mazar-e-Sharif, a major city in the north defended by powerful former warlords, today. Pictured: Militants loyal to warlord Ata Mohammad Noor in Mazar-e-Sharif
Some of the 600 soldiers headed to Kabul to evacuate Britons are pictured on a military transport headed to Kabul
Some of the 600 soldiers headed to Kabul to evacuate Britons are pictured on a military transport headed to Kabul

Pakistani soldiers stand guard as stranded Afghan nationals return to Afghanistan at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border crossing point in Chaman today

Lord Dannatt said the country was facing a ‘tragedy in the making’ with a growing humanitarian crisis centred on Kabul.

‘It is okay to extract our British citizens. What about mounting a humanitarian operation in Kabul to look after some of the refugees, to build some camps, bring in some humanitarian supplies?’ he told BBC Breakfast.

‘At least let’s show to the Afghan government we are not completely abandoning them and that we still stand side by side with them. It is quite possible to do that.

‘I think our Government should be thinking about that kind of response even though it has now pulled the plug on our wider military response.

Timeline of Afghanistan’s provincial capitals falling to the Taliban

Aug. 6 – ZARANJ – The Taliban take over the city in Nimroz province in the south, the first provincial capital to fall to the insurgents since they stepped up attacks on Afghan forces in early May.

Aug. 7 – SHEBERGHAN – The Taliban declare they have captured the entire northern province of Jawzjan, including its capital Sheberghan. Heavy fighting is reported in the city, and government buildings are taken over by the insurgents. Afghan security forces say they are still fighting there.

Aug. 8 – SAR-E-PUL – The insurgents take control of Sar-e-Pul, capital of the northern province of the same name. It is the first of three provincial centres to fall on the same day.

Aug. 8 – KUNDUZ – Taliban fighters seize control of the northern city of 270,000 people, regarded as a strategic prize as it lies at the gateway to mineral-rich northern provinces and Central Asia. Government forces say they are resisting the insurgents from an army base and the airport.

Aug. 8 – TALOQAN – The capital of Takhar province, also in the north, falls to the Taliban in the evening. They free prisoners and force government officials to flee.

Aug. 9 – AYBAK – The capital of the northern province of Samangan is overrun by Taliban fighters.

Aug. 10 – PUL-E-KHUMRI – The capital of the central province of Baghlan falls to the Taliban, according to residents.

Aug. 11 – FAIZABAD – The capital of the northeastern province of Badakhshan is under Taliban control, a provincial council member says.

Aug. 12 – GHAZNI – The insurgents take over the city, capital of the province of the same name, a senior security officer says.

Aug. 12 – FIRUS KOH – The capital of Ghor province, was handed over to the Taliban on Thursday night without a fight, security officials said.

Aug. 12 – QALA-E-NAW – The Taliban have captured the capital of the northwestern province of Badghis, a security official and the Taliban said.

Aug. 12 – KANDAHAR – The Taliban have captured Afghanistan’s second biggest city of Kandahar, government officials and the Taliban said.

Aug. 13 – LASHKAR GAH – The Taliban have captured the capital of the southern province of Helmand, police said.

Aug. 13 – HERAT – Capital of Herat province in the west was under Taliban control after days of clashes, a provincial council member said.

Aug. 13 – POL-E ALAM – Taliban captured provincial capital of Logar, 30 miles south of Kabul. 

‘There may come a moment when our last troops have got to go but until that point let us do what we can to help with the humanitarian crisis, even if we have given up helping on the military side.’

Residents of Mazar-e-Sharif expressed fear about the security breakdown.

‘The situation is dangerous outside of the city and inside the city,’ Mohibullah Khan said, adding that many residents are also struggling economically.

‘The security situation in the city is getting worse,’ said Kawa Basharat. ‘I want peace and stability. The fighting should be stopped.’

The Taliban today released a video in which an unnamed insurgent announced the takeover of the main radio station in the southern city of Kandahar, which fell to the insurgents earlier this week.

The station has been renamed the Voice of Sharia, or Islamic law. He said all employees were present and would broadcast news, political analysis and recitations of the Quran, the Islamic holy book. It appears the station will no longer play music.

It was not clear if the Taliban had purged the previous employees or allowed them to return to work. Most residents of Kandahar sport the traditional dress favored by the Taliban. The man in the video congratulated the people of Kandahar on the Taliban’s victory.

The Taliban have operated mobile radio stations over the years, but have not operated a station inside a major city since they ruled the country from 1996-2001. At that time, they also ran a station called Voice of Sharia out of Kandahar, the birthplace of the militant group. Music was banned.

It comes after the Taliban was accuse of tarring men accused of theft and parading them around the streets of newly-captured city Herat with fears that Kabul could fall within days or weeks sparking increasingly urgent evacuation efforts by British and American soldiers.

The pictures shared by Afghan journalist Bilal Sarway show men tarred in black with nooses around their necks being dragged through the streets by armed gunmen, were shared online in the wake of the Taliban seizing control of Herat on Thursday.

With the 20th anniversary to 9/11 looming, Afghanistan risks falling to the Taliban after the militant group seized control of two thirds of the nation following the prolonged withdrawal of US and UK troops.

Some reports have claimed that the Taliban is as little as 50 miles from Kabul, but the Pentagon yesterday held a press conference insisting that the Afghan capital is not in immediate danger of falling.

The blitz through Afghanistan’s southern heartland means the insurgents now hold half of the country’s 34 provincial capitals and control more than two-thirds of the nation.

US President Joe Biden, whose announcement of a 31 August withdrawal appears to have led to the collapse of the Afghan National Army is spending a long weekend at Camp David.

Taliban commanders have ‘vowed to enter Kabul like a roaring lion’ as their rampage towards the strategic stronghold, and capital of the country, continues.

The Times reports one senior figure saying: ‘We will enter Kabul like a roaring lion soon, God willing, hopefully within this month and wrap up the American puppets who are already in a state of fear.

‘Their silence on our triumphs in the south and west speaks for itself and they are hiding like cowards.’

Boris Johnson said on Thursday night that it is not ‘realistic’ to expect outside powers to impose a ‘combat solution’ on Afghanistan as the Taliban’s surging advance closes on Kabul and British and US troops start to arrive to evacuate Westerners.

The Prime Minister said: ‘There isn’t a military solution. Thanks to the efforts of the UK armed services and all the sacrifices they made we have seen no al Qaida attacks against the West for a very long time.’

‘I think we have got to be realistic about the power of the UK or any power to impose a military solution — a combat solution — in Afghanistan.’

He spoke after the Taliban seized large swathes of Helmand province , where hundreds of UK troops died over more than a decade of fighting that has seen 454 UK personnel killed since 9/11.

‘What we certainly can do is work with all our partners in the region around the world who share an interest with us in preventing Afghanistan once again becoming a breeding ground for terror.’

After a week of intense fighting saw the Taliban seize control of swathes of the country, the Prime Minister said the UK can be ‘extremely proud’ of its role in the last 20 years.

But after leading a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee yesterday, Mr Johnson insisted there was no military solution to the deteriorating security situation.

And he denied that the sacrifices made by British forces in Afghanistan had been in vain.

‘I don’t think that it was in vain. If you look back at what has happened over the last 20 years there was a massive effort to deal with a particular problem that everybody will remember after 9/11,’ he said.

‘That was successful. To a very large extent the threat from al Qaida on the streets of our capital, around the UK, around the whole of the West was greatly, greatly reduced.

‘I believe it was right, it was worth it and what we must do now is not turn our backs on Afghanistan.’

Some 600 troops are due to deploy to Kabul to evacuate British nationals as a mass exodus begins to escape the ravages of the hardliners.

He finally addressed the situation after fierce criticism from Labour and even his own MPs over his silence on the issue.

The pictures, which show men tarred in black with nooses around their necks being dragged through the streets by armed gunmen, were shared online in the wake of the Taliban seizing control of Herat, Afghanistan on Thursday

The men pictured above are purportedly accused of theft, and have been tarred in black and dragged through the streets by armed Taliban sympathisers

The armed insurgents celebrated in the streets of Afghanistan's third most populous city, Herat, as the Taliban continue their march eastwards towards Kabul

UN begs Afghanistan’s neighbours to keep borders open

The United Nations begged on Friday for neighbouring countries to keep their borders open to allow people to escape the Taliban, and U.N. agencies warned of a growing humanitarian catastrophe amid spreading hunger.

The plea comes as hundreds of thousands of Afghans fled their homes amid fears the Taliban will again impose a brutal, repressive government, all but eliminating women’s rights and conduct commonplace public executions.

Pictures from Friday showed fleeing Afghans entering neighbouring Pakistan after the country re-opened its Chaman-Spin Boldak border crossing for people who had been otherwise stranded in recent weeks.

The crossing is a major gateway between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and is reported to be under Taliban control.

Juma Khan, the border town’s deputy commissioner, said the crossing was reopened following talks with the Taliban.

The decision to open the border was made after the United Nations refugee agency called on Afghanistan’s neighbours to keep crossings open as the crisis intensifies.

‘An inability to seek safety may risk innumerable civilian lives. UNHCR stands ready to help national authorities scale up humanitarian responses as needed,’ a spokesperson for the agency told a briefing in Geneva.

The World Food Programme sees food shortages in Afghanistan as ‘quite dire’ and worsening, a spokesperson added, saying the situation had all the hallmarks of a humanitarian catastrophe.

As Western embassies prepare to send in troops to help evacuate staff, the United Nations said its 320 staff members would remain.

‘We fear the worst is yet to come and the larger tide of hunger is fast approaching… The situation has all the hallmarks of a humanitarian catastrophe,’ the World Food Programme’s Thomson Phiri told a U.N. briefing.

More than 250,000 people have been forced from their homes since May, 80 percent of them women and children, the U.N. refugee agency’s Shabia Mantoo said.

Many reported extortion by armed groups on the way and having to dodge improvised explosive devices along major roads.

Thousands of people are rushing from rural areas to the capital Kabul and other urban centres in search of shelter, another U.N. official said.

‘They are sleeping in the open, in parks and public spaces,’ Jens Laerke, spokesman of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. ‘A major concern right now is simply finding shelter for them.’

A World Health Organisation official reported a doubling of trauma cases in the last two to three months in the health facilities it supports.

She also expressed concerns about shortages of medical supplies and said it was training medical staff on mass casualty management.

Posting to his private Instagram account on Thursday, Sultan Ghani shared pictures of him walking across a runway to a private jet.

‘Moving from one crisis to the other as elegantly as I can’ his caption read, sparking outrage on social media.

‘While Afghanistan is burning & the ppl are suffering across the country because of his uncle’s disastrous leadership, posts these photos on his Instagram account,’ one user wrote on Twitter while sharing the images of the Sultan and his plane.

The Taliban insurgency seized Lashkar Gah – the capital of the southern province of Helmand – on Friday, and two afghan lawmakers officials had surrendered the capital of Uruzgan province to the rapidly advancing Taliban.

On Thursday, the group took of Kandahar and Herat, marking the biggest prizes yet for the Taliban, who have taken 12 of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals as part of a week-long blitz

‘The city looks like a front line, a ghost town,’ provincial council member Ghulam Habib Hashimi said of Kandahar via telephone from Herat, a city of about 600,000 people near the border with Iran.

‘Families have either left or are hiding in their homes.’

Of Afghanistan’s major cities, the government still holds Mazar-e-Sharif in the north and Jalalabad, near the Pakistani border in the east, in addition to Kabul.

According to recent UN data, 400,000 people have fled their homes inside Afghanistan since the start of the year, with almost 300,000 of those fleeing since May as fighting between the government and Taliban stepped up.

The vast majority of those are still inside the country, the UN says, but with Islamist fighters making rapid gains in almost every region and government forces in retreat, many are looking to leave the country.

The crisis worsened on Thursday as the Taliban continued its bloody advance, seizing control of Afghanistan’s second largest city Kandahar.

It now controls more than two-thirds of the country and is closing in on the capital Kabul.

Mr Johnson said it was not realistic to expect outside powers to impose a ‘combat solution’ on Afghanistan.

‘There isn’t a military solution. Thanks to the efforts of the UK armed services and all the sacrifices they made, we have seen no al-Qaeda attacks against the West for a very long time,’ he said.

‘I think we have got to be realistic about the power of the UK or any power to impose a military solution, a combat solution, in Afghanistan. What we certainly can do is work with all our partners in the region around the world who share an interest with us in preventing Afghanistan once again becoming a breeding ground for terror.’

Mr Johnson insisted the 457 British military personnel killed in the country had not died ‘in vain’ and said the military intervention that began 20 years ago was right and had been ‘worth it’.

He suggested he had no choice but to pull out troops as he was dealing with the ‘consequences’ of the US’s decision to withdraw.

Tory MPs had earlier accused him of a ‘shameful’ silence as the situation deteriorated and questioned whether he had done enough to persuade Joe Biden to not pull out US troops.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace yesterday said the US withdrawal was a ‘mistake’ and the West will ‘probably pay the consequences’.

He voiced fears about the resurgence of al-Qaeda – the terror group behind 9/11 – who he warned could plot attacks on British soil.

He told Sky News: ‘Of course I am worried, it is why I said I felt this was not the right time or decision to make because, of course, al-Qaeda will probably come back, certainly would like that type of breeding ground.

‘That is what we see – failed states around the world lead to instability, lead to a security threat to us and our interests.’

He refused to rule out further military action in the country, telling LBC: ‘I’m going to leave every option open. If the Taliban have a message from last time, you start hosting al-Qaeda, you start attacking the West or countries, we could be back.’

Mr Johnson faced growing calls from some of his own backbenchers as well as opposition party politicians for Parliament to be recalled on Thursday night.

The Lib Dems demanded MPs are brought back from their summer break and shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said Labour could join the push to hold the Government to account if it did not show a clear strategy.

Tobias Ellwood, the Tory chairman of the Commons defence committee, urged Mr Johnson to call an emergency session of the UN Security Council and to ‘consider recall of Parliament to seek views on leading a non-US led coalition and prevent a full scale civil war’.

Grieving families of British soldiers killed in Afghanistan also spoke of their anger as the Taliban captured territory UK troops fought and died to protect.

Donald Trump and the Taliban signed a deal last February for the US to withdraw from Afghanistan. Joe Biden has continued with the withdrawal timetable, with all troops due to have left by the symbolic date of September 11 – the 20th anniversary of the terror attacks on the World Trade Center in New York.

The UK Government announced on Thursday around 600 troops are being deployed to help evacuate British nationals and former Afghan staff.

Meanwhile in Kabul, US troops sent to evacuate embassy staff reportedly started to arrive at the international airport, with more expected over the next 24 hours.

And hundreds of thousands of Afghans have fled their homes amid fears the country will return to the brutal, repressive rule imposed by the previous Taliban government. The UN Refugee Agency said nearly 250,000 Afghans have fled their homes since the end of May.

The announcement came hours after the Home Office said Home Secretary Priti Patel had taken on the role’s responsibilities following criticism of the Government for failing to replace James Brokenshire – who had left the post last month.

The Pentagon claimed on Friday it did not believe Kabul was under imminent threat from the rapid Taliban advance, as the first of 3000 U.S. troops arrived in the Afghan capital to protect embassy staff.

Earlier Taliban fighters seized the country’s second and third biggest cities, and their fighters closed to within 50 miles of Kabul.

The speed of their advance has sent Western nations scrambling to bring home civilian staff.

And a defence official told the Associated Press that an attack on Kabul could come within days.

Department of Defense spokesman John Kirby declined to say whether officials were surprised by the way Afghan forces had failed to slow the advance.

‘We are certainly concerned by the speed with which the Taliban has been moving,’ he said.

‘And as we’ve said from the very beginning, this still is a moment for Afghan national security and defence forces, as well as their political leadership.

‘No outcome has to be inevitable here.

‘We’re obviously watching this just like you’re watching this and seeing it happen in real time, and it’s deeply concerning.’

Instead, he echoed President Biden and other administration officials in insisting that Afghan security forces held the advantage over the Taliban.

‘We will do what we can from the air, but they have the advantage,’ he said. ‘They have greater numbers. They have an air force. They have modern weaponry. It’s indigenous forces that can make the difference on the ground.’

The signs so far are that Afghan forces are struggling, despite billions of dollars in U.S. training and equipment.

Members of the Parachute Regiment are among  the troops being sent to Afghanistan with the Taliban just 90 miles from Kabul
Members of the Parachute Regiment are among  the troops being sent to Afghanistan with the Taliban just 90 miles from Kabul

Boris Johnson said tonight that it is not 'realistic' to expect outside powers to impose a 'combat solution' on Afghanistan

Boris Johnson said tonight that it is not ‘realistic’ to expect outside powers to impose a ‘combat solution’ on Afghanistan
First lady Jill Biden (right) is helped onboard Marine One by President Joe Biden (left) wearing a walking boot on her left leg and using a crutch. She was at Walter Reed more than two weeks ago getting a puncture wound cleaned out of her foot
First lady Jill Biden (right) is helped onboard Marine One by President Joe Biden (left) wearing a walking boot on her left leg and using a crutch. She was at Walter Reed more than two weeks ago getting a puncture wound cleaned out of her foot
The Taliban have completed their sweep of the country's south on Friday, as they took four more provincial capitals in a lightning offensive that is gradually encircling Kabul. Pictured: Taliban fighters stand guard over surrendered Afghan troops in the city of Ghazni
The Taliban have completed their sweep of the country’s south on Friday, as they took four more provincial capitals in a lightning offensive that is gradually encircling Kabul. Pictured: Taliban fighters stand guard over surrendered Afghan troops in the city of Ghazni

In some cases they have simply melted away or switched sides in the face of an insurgency emboldened by Biden’s promise to end the U.S. combat mission by Aug 31.

‘They have the benefit of the training that we have provided them over 20 years,’ said Kirby. ‘They have the material, the physical – the tangible – advantages. It’s time now to use those advantages.’

Yet the Taliban advance continued at rapid pace on Friday. They took four more provincial capitals on Friday, including Ghazni on the road south out of Kabul.

Staff at the U.S. embassy were told on Friday to begin destroying sensitive information or anything that could be used by the Taliban, according to a management memo obtained by CNN.

A former diplomat told DailyMail.com it suggested that plans were further advanced for fleeing the compound than officials had suggested.

But Kirby said the capital was not at imminent risk of Taliban capture.

‘Kabul is not right now in an imminent threat environment,’ he said. ‘But clearly … if you just look at what the Taliban has been doing you can see that they are trying to isolate Kabul.’

In the meantime, the first forces of a Marine battalion arrived at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport.

‘I expect that by the end of the weekend the bulk of the 3,000 that we talked about yesterday will be in place,’ said Kirby.

Yesterday, militants seized Pol-e Alam — the provincial capital of Logar — which lies less than 40 miles south of Kabul, according to a local official. They also captured the key cities of Lashkar Gah — the capital of the southern province of Helmand – earlier on Friday, and the capitals of Kandahar and Herat on Thursday, tightening the group’s grip on the country.

 The loss of Helmand’s provincial capital of Kandahar in the past 24 hours comes after years of toil and blood spill by American, British and allied NATO forces. Estimates suggest those countries lost some 800 troops over the decades-long war there.

Britain alone lost more than 450 troops in Afghanistan. Just over 400 were the result of hostile action, and the vast majority of causalities were in Helmand province.

Former army officer and ex-defence minister Tobias Ellwood invoked Winston Churchill – the PM’s political hero – after the evacuation deployment was announced.

Ellwood, chairman of the defence committee, said on Twitter: ‘What would Churchill say? This is NOT our finest hour. What happened to GLOBAL BRITAIN and AMERICA IS BACK?

‘The largest high tech military alliance ever – defeated by an insurgency armed with mines, RPGs and AK47s. We can and must do better.’

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace yesterday said that the withdrawal of the US, the dominant military force in Afganistan, had meant the UK had to leave as well. He said there has been no international will to carry on without Washington’s involvement.

But former defence minister and Afghanistan veteran Johnny Mercer contested the idea that the UK cannot act alone in the central Asian country.

The Conservative MP said the current situation was ‘deeply humiliating’, telling BBC Breakfast: ‘This idea we cannot act unilaterally and support the Afghan security forces is simply not true.

‘The political will to see through enduring support to Afghanistan has not been there and a lot of people are going to die because of that, and for me that is extremely humiliating.

‘It’s a world tragedy and we are going to reap the repercussions of this over many years to come

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  1. Pingback: Incredible photo shows 640 Afghans on a US C-17 cargo jet - designed to carry 150 - after they ran on before soldiers could close ramp and pilot decided to take off from Kabul and save them all  - DiazHub

  2. Pingback: Taliban try out fun fair dodgems as fighters 'go door-to-door in Kabul looking for Western allies' amid claims of 'rape gangs' in other cities - DiazHub

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