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The Taliban, who have rampaged across Afghanistan in recent days and earlier today entered the capital, Kabul, are on the verge of declaring that they have taken control of the country and that it is now the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, according to Press Association reports citing a Taliban official.
The declaration is expected to be made from the presidential palace in Kabul following the departure of Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, earlier, who apparently fled, initially to Tajikistan. His current location is unconfirmed.
Senior Taliban commanders announced within the last two hours that they had taken control of the palace, according to news wire reports. More details and further confirmation are awaited.
UK PM: Afghanistan must not become breeding ground for terrorism again
Boris Johnson is interviewed live on television. He says: “Nobody wants Afghanistan to be a breeding ground for terror … or to lapse back into the pre-2001 situation.”
But the prime minister acknowledges: “There is clearly a change of regime now happening” in Afghanistan. He adds: “We don’t know exactly what kind of regime that will be.”
He appeals to the United Nations and Nato powers to unite, saying: “We do not want anyone bilaterally recognising the Taliban.”
Johnson, like the US’s Antony Blinken, is trying to give every impression that the Taliban takeover in this way is not a shock, despite it contradicting what leaders said just last month.
Johnson’s interview and our livestream of same have just finished. We’ll bring you a little more of what was said by Johnson and, simultaneously on the other side of the Atlantic, by Blinken, the US secretary of state, who was being interviewed on CNN, in more posts here as soon as possible.
Stars and stripes lowered at US embassy in Afghanistan – report
The American flag at the US embassy in Kabul has been removed, according to numerous media reports. The US ambassador and the flag are reported now to be at the airport in Kabul, the only way out of Afghanistan with the capital surrounded by the Taliban and road crossings controlled by the extremist insurgency forces.
The last reports were that the US embassy would be closed by Tuesday and was being staffed by a skeleton-level team. The situation on the ground is not completely clear.
There is “pandemonium” at the airport, according to CNN’s reporter in Afghanistan, Clarissa Ward, just now. The road to the airport is choked with traffic as Afghan people desperately try to reach it to take or seek a flight out.
This could account for the so-far unconfirmed and isolated reports of gunfire – ie chaos in the approach to the airport and frustration boiling over.
Boris Johnson’s public appearance to give a statement after an emergency meeting is delayed. He was due to talk 10 minutes ago, and there is no word yet on the new schedule. We’ll keep you informed and will stream the PM live, here.
Reports are coming out from US embassy staff in Afghanistan that Kabul airport is taking fire. The embassy has instructed US citizens to “shelter in place” – ie stay put wherever you are right now and try to find a safe place to wait.
The security situation in Kabul is “changing quickly, including at the airport”, according to a report from Reuters.
Meanwhile, the Taliban have taken control of Afghanistan’s presidential palace, two senior Taliban commanders present in Kabul told Reuters a little earlier, after the Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, left the country.
There was no confirmation from the Afghan government about the Taliban’s claim. Government officials were not immediately contactable.