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Game over: Taliban retakes Kabul as US lowers flag on embassy

KABUL, Afghanistan: The Taliban has declared an end to the war in Afghanistan the group entered into the capital to retake Kabul as conqueror after 20 years while former president Ashraf Ghani fled the country.

The streets of Kabul were quiet on Monday, but there were scenes of chaos and panic at the international airport as hundreds of Afghans desperate to leave the country flooded the tarmac. The United States and other Western nations were also scrambling to evacuate their diplomats and citizens.

Spokesman for Taliban’s political office Mohammad Naeem told the news agencies that the group did not want to live in isolation and said the type and form of the new government in Afghanistan would be made clear soon. He also called for peaceful international relations.

“Thanks to God, the war is over in the country,” he said.

“We have reached what we were seeking, which is the freedom of our country and the independence of our people,” he added. “We will not allow anyone to use our lands to target anyone, and we do not want to harm others.”

The United Nations Security Council will discuss the situation in Afghanistan later on Monday.

A Taliban leader said the fighters are regrouping from different provinces and will wait until foreign forces had left before creating a new governance structure.

The leader, who requested anonymity, says Taliban fighters had been “ordered to allow Afghans to resume daily activities and do nothing to scare civilians”.

“Normal life will continue in a much better way, that’s all I can say for now,” he said in a message.

Nepal’s government calls for the evacuation of an estimated 1,500 Nepalis working as security staff with embassies and with international aid groups in Afghanistan.

“We have formally written to embassies requesting them for the evacuation,” Nepal Foreign Ministry spokesperson Sewa Lamsal tells Reuters news agency in Kathmandu.

Lamsal says the government has also set up a panel to determine the exact number of Nepalis working in Kabul and elsewhere in Afghanistan.

“The government will make arrangements for their evacuation also,” she says.

Nepal does not have a diplomatic presence in Afghanistan but thousands of Nepali men work as security guards in diplomatic districts of the country.

Afghanistan Civil Aviation Authority (ACAA) said that Kabul airspace have been released to the military and it advises transit aircraft to reroute, according to a notice to airmen on its website.

ACAA says any transit through Kabul airspace will be uncontrolled and it has advised the surrounding flight information regions that control airspace.

Kabul’s flight information region covers all of Afghanistan.

The Taliban armed group is in control of Afghanistan and British forces are not going to return to fight them, the United Kingdom’s defence minister says.

“I acknowledge that the Taliban are in control of the country,” Defence Secretary Ben Wallace tells Sky News. “I mean, you don’t have to be a political scientist to spot that’s where we’re at.”

Asked if Britain and NATO would return to Afghanistan, Wallace says: “That’s not on the cards … we’re not going to go back.”

A report revealed that China is prepared to recognise the Taliban as the legitimate ruler of Afghanistan.

New Chinese military and intelligence assessments of the current situation in Afghanistan have prompted them to prepare to formalise their ties with the terrorist group, according to the American publication citing intelligence sources familiar with the Chinese assessments.

Meanwhile, Russia’s presidential envoy for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov said on Sunday Moscow was ready to work with a future interim government, told the Russian state-run RIA news agency.

He also said that Russia does not plan to evacuate its embassy in Kabul after Taliban fighters take over the Afghan capital.

“No evacuation is planned,” Kabulov said, adding that he was “in direct contact” with Moscow’s ambassador in Kabul and that Russian embassy employees continued to work “calmly”. 

Kabulov said that Russia is not worried about the situation in Afghanistan because it has good ties with both the Taliban and the Afghan government.

After capturing many key strategic provincial capitals in recent days, forcing government forces to surrender or flee, Taliban fighters on Sunday reached the capital city.

Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani together with his close aides also left the country.

Following the departure of Ghani, former President Hamid Karzai, veteran politician Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and top peace negotiator Abdullah Abdullah formed a council with an aim to ensure a smooth transfer of power.