Taliban fighters on Sunday took over the Afghan capital as President Ashraf Ghani fled abroad, triggering a massive effort to airlift Western diplomats, civilians and Afghans likely to be targeted by the country’s new rulers.
Demoralized Afghan security forces offered no resistance as the insurgents, who seized most of the country in just over a week, appeared Sunday morning on Kabul’s outskirts.
While the Taliban initially said they wouldn’t enter the capital while a transitional government is being formed, they reversed their stance by nightfall, saying that someone needed to maintain public order after Afghan police deserted their posts.
“To prevent chaos and looting, the Islamic Emirate has ordered the mujahedeen to get control of the abandoned areas,” a Taliban statement said. The Taliban fighters, it added, won’t bother any civilian or military officials of the former regime.
By evening, the main road to the Kabul airport—packed with Afghans desperately trying to escape and with thousands of American troops protecting the evacuation effort—presented a bizarre scene of Taliban fighters mingling with uniformed Afghan troops.
Mr. Ghani, who fled the presidential palace and spent Sunday morning at the U.S. Embassy, left the Afghan capital in the afternoon.