Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani said on Saturday that he will not let the “imposed war” on Afghans lead to further killings, Tolo News reported. Ghani also vowed not to give up the gains of the past 20 years, referring to the period after United States-led forces overthrew the Taliban in 2001.
The Taliban has made rapid advances in large parts of the country over the past few weeks. The militant group now controls at least 18 out of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, and is closing in on the Capital city of Kabul.
Clashes between the Taliban and Afghan forces have escalated as foreign troops prepare to withdraw from the country by the end of August. More than 1,000 people have been killed in Afghanistan in the last month, the BBC reported, citing the United Nations.
In a recorded message to Afghans on Saturday, Ghani said his top priority was to remobilise the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces. He added that he wanted to prevent further violence and displacement of people.
“To do this, I have started widespread consultations within and outside the government, with political leaders and international partners and I will soon share the results with the people,” he said.
Ghani’s statement came even as some reports speculated that the president may soon resign and leave the country. But the BBC cited officials as saying on Friday that Ghani has ruled out the possibility of resigning.
Taliban nears Kabul
Early on Saturday, the Taliban captured the entire Logar province, which is located just south of Kabul. Hoda Ahmadi, a lawmaker from the province, told AP that the militant group has reached Char Asyab district, merely 11 km south of Kabul.
The Taliban has also launched a multi-pronged attack on the Mazar-i-Sharif city in northern Afghanistan, Al-Jazeera reported.
The provincial capitals seized so far by the Taliban are Aybak, Kunduz, Taluqan, Faizabad, Pul-e-Khumri, Pul-e Alam, Ghazni, Terenkot, Kandahar, Lashkar Gah, Zaranj, Farah, Herat, Feruz Koh, Qala-e Naw, Sar-e-Pul, Sheberghan and Qalat.
The Taliban captured Kandahar and Herat on Thursday. They are the second and third-largest cities respectively of the country after Capital Kabul.
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Friday said that the situation in Afghanistan was “largely spinning out of control” and called on the Taliban to immediately halt its offensive. Guterres also said he was “deeply disturbed” by reports of the Taliban imposing severe curbs on human rights, especially with respect to women and journalists.
Several reports have said that the Taliban have imposed harsh rules on dress codes and movement for women. The BBC quoted a woman in Afghanistan’s Takhar province as saying on Friday that the Taliban now mandates that she must wear a burqa and a male must accompany her in public.
Several countries shut embassies
Denmark and Norway are shutting down their embassies in Kabul for the time being due to the escalating violence, Reuters reported.
Finland will also evacuate 130 Afghans, including employees who had worked for the Nordic country, the European Union or Nato on a chartered flight, the agency stated. Finland’s embassy in Kabul, however, will remain open for now.
The United States’ embassy in Kabul urged its citizens to leave Afghanistan at the earliest, CNN reported. This was the second such security alert that the embassy issued. The US and Canada had said they would deploy special forces to Afghanistan to evacuate the staff at the country’s embassy in Kabul. Germany urged its citizens on Thursday to leave Afghanistan as soon as they can.
On Tuesday, India also advised its citizens in Afghanistan to make immediate arrangements to leave the country.