The Taliban reached Kabul on Sunday August 15. In just ten days of a lightning offensive across Afghanistan, the insurgents secured control of the territory. Their entry into the capital is the symbol of their total military victory over the Afghan army and government. The same day, the population learned that its president, Ashraf Ghani, had left the country. As for the Western embassies, they are busy evacuating their nationals as quickly as possible.
>> Follow the situation in Afghanistan live as the Taliban entered Kabul
Franceinfo looks back on this day, which heralds the return to power of the radical Islamist movement, twenty years after being driven out by an international coalition led by the United States.
Sunday morning, the Taliban are at the gates of the Afghan capital. But a spokesperson for the Islamist movement let it be known on Twitter that the fighters were ordered not to enter Kabul. At the very beginning of the afternoon, a journalist from the American television network PBS, however, films from her hotel a group of men holding a Taliban flag. They walk singing towards the presidential palace. They apparently do not carry weapons, according to the reporter there. The Taliban entered the Afghan capital, says Liz Sly, correspondent of Washington post (English content).
Group of men chanting and carrying #Taliban flag (just managed to film tail end of it here) just passed our hotel on road to Presidential Palace. From a distance, they appeared unarmed. #kabul #afghanistan #pbsnews pic.twitter.com/1ElwzIMBrp
– Jane Ferguson (@ JaneFerguson5) August 15, 2021
In the afternoon, the news falls: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has left the country. His former rival and vice-president Abdullah Abdullah, head of the High Council for National Reconciliation, the announcement in a video posted on his Facebook page. The day before, Ashraf Ghani nevertheless declared that he wanted to negotiate to obtain a peaceful transition of power.
In the process, a Taliban spokesperson posted a new statement online. This time, Islamist fighters were ordered to enter Kabul, in order to “to ensure order” in the neighborhoods “deserted by the police”. At the end of the afternoon, their armed presence was confirmed. Un American journalist from NBC television testifies on Twitter (English content) seeing armed Taliban fighters in the streets of Kabul. “I imagine that many more will arrive in the coming hours”, he predicts.
Over the course of the day, Kabul is already gradually changing its physiognomy, as shown by this operation to erase female images on the walls of the capital, reported on Twitter by a journalist on local television.
– Lotfullah Najafizada (@LNajafizada) August 15, 2021
Several thousand Afghans who worked for the Americans are also trying to leave the country as quickly as possible, for fear of reprisals. A reporter for the American television channel NBC posted on Twitter a photo of Afghans filling out the forms to try to obtain a visa for the United States.
Kabul this morning. Afghans crowding a visa processing center, trying to get visas to the United States. Stories of desperation. Many came up to me crying. pic.twitter.com/7l8PXBpY63
– Richard Engel (@RichardEngel) August 15, 2021
In total, the Pentagon estimates that some 30,000 people will have to be evacuated by August 31, the date set by President Joe Biden for the total withdrawal of American forces.
As during the day on Saturday, the American helicopters on Sunday continued their incessant rotations between the American embassy, a gigantic complex located in the ultra-fortified “green zone”, in the center of the capital, and the airport, now the only way out of the country. . This is “the end”, concludes a journalist from Wall Street Journal by tweeting this photo of the evacuation of personnel from the United States Embassy in Kabul, under the protection of American soldiers.
And so it goes. The end. pic.twitter.com/PaoTLei8S9
– Yaroslav Trofimov (@yarotrof) August 15, 2021
But it is another cliché which strikes the spirits, abundantly relayed on Twitter, in particular by Liz sly. The photo of a helicopter soaring in the skies of Kabul over the American Embassy. The image is reminiscent of the hasty departure of the Americans at the time of the fall of the Vietnamese capital in 1975, during the Vietnam War. “This is not Saigon”, nevertheless affirms at the same time on CNN the American Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, in reference to this memory still painful for the United States.
– Liz Sly (@LizSly) August 15, 2021
Several other Western countries are also taking action to minimize their presence in Afghanistan. Danish and German authorities announced Sunday that all their expatriates have been transferred to Kabul airport. Those from Canada have already left the country, says Ottawa. For its part, Germany moves its diplomatic staff to Kabul airport on Sunday, before an evacuation scheduled for Monday.
The French ambassador in Kabul, David Martinon, tweets a video of his team evacuating the “green zone”. The tricolor embassy, too, has moved to the airport, while military reinforcements and air assets are dispatched to the United Arab Emirates in anticipation of the evacuation of the last French nationals still in Afghanistan.
– David Martinon (@david_martinon) August 15, 2021
Sunday evening, the Taliban confirm their presence in eleven districts of the city. They are continuing their progress there. Three Taliban executives told AFP that the fighters are now masters of the presidential palace. In a street of the capital, a reporter films the Taliban perched on a Humvee, a vehicle of the American army.
The Taliban begins its rule in Kabul, Afghanistan. And the fruit seller didn’t stop selling — as you can hear in the background. pic.twitter.com/0kqCrYOgnh
– Ezzatullah Mehrdad (@EzzatMehrdad) August 15, 2021
At nightfall, on the tarmac at Kabul airport, evacuations continue. A journalist filming the scene evokes a “absolute chaos”.
– Wajahat Kazmi (@KazmiWajahat) August 15, 2021
Now in exile in an unknown place, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani ends up explaining that he fled his country to avoid a “bloodbath”. “The Taliban have won … and are now responsible for the honor, possession and self-preservation of their country.”, he wrote in a Facebook post. At the same time, the Al-Jazeera channel broadcasts images of Islamist fighters in the presidential palace.