Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has left the capital, Kabul, for Tajikistan, a senior Afghan Ministry of the Interior official said yesterday.
Asked for comment, the president’s office said it “cannot say anything about Ashraf Ghani’s movement for security reasons.”
A representative of the Taliban, whose leaders entered Kabul earlier yesterday, said the group was checking on Ghani’s whereabouts.
The Taliban wants to take control of Afghanistan “in the next few days,” a spokesman for the group told the BBC yesterday as its fighters encircled the capital.
“In next few days, we want a peaceful transfer,” Suhail Shaheen, who is based in Qatar as part of the group’s negotiating team, told the BBC.
Shaheen laid out the policies of the Taliban ahead of an expected power transfer that would reinstall the hardline Islamic group two decades after US-led forces toppled it in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
“We want an inclusive Islamic government ... that means all Afghans will be part of that government,” Shaheen said. “We will see that in the future as the peaceful transfer is taking place.”
He also said foreign embassies and workers would not be targeted by the group’s fighters and they should remain in the country.
“There will be no risk to diplomats, NGOs, to anyone. All should continue their work as they were continuing in the past. They won’t harm them, they should remain,” he said.
Rebuffing fears that the country would be plunged back to the dark days of the group’s ultra-conservative version of Islamic law, Shaheen said the Taliban will instead seek a “new chapter” of tolerance.
“We want to work with any Afghan, we want to open a new chapter of peace, tolerance, peaceful coexistence and national unity for the country and for the people of Afghanistan,” he said.
However, many officials, soldiers and police have surrendered or abandoned their posts, fearing reprisals against anyone suspected of working with the Western-backed government or Western forces.
Shaheen said that would not happen.
“We reassure that there is no revenge on anyone. Any case will be investigated,” he said.
The Doha-based spokesman said the group would also review its relationship with the US, which it has waged a deadly insurgency against for decades.
“Our relationship was in the past,” he said. “In future, if it will touch our agenda no more, it will be a new chapter of cooperation.”
Taliban militants surrounded Kabul following an astonishing rout of government forces and warlord militias achieved in just 10 days.
Rapid shuttle flights of helicopters near the US embassy began a few hours after the militants seized the nearby city of Jalalabad — which had been the last major city besides the capital not in Taliban hands.
An official yesterday said that US diplomats were being moved from the embassy to the airport.
The official said military helicopters were shuttling between the embassy compound and the airport, where a core presence would remain for as long as possible given security conditions.
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