The United States has started evacuating diplomats from its Kabul embassy, as the Taliban took control of the key eastern city of Jalalabad.
Two officials of the US Embassy disclosed this to Reuters on Sunday.
“We have a small batch of people leaving now as we speak, a majority of the staff are ready to leave … the embassy continues to function,” one of the US was quoted as saying.
Hours after the fall of Jalalabad, helicopters could be seen repeatedly arriving and departing the US embassy in Kabul, as diplomatic armoured SUVs also left the site.
Also, the Associated Press reports that wisps of smoke seen near the embassy’s roof were a result of diplomats urgently destroying sensitive documents.
On Saturday, Kabul was plunged into darkness and communication networks appeared to be down, hampering desperate efforts by its residents to escape the bloodshed many fear could lie ahead.
It was reported that citizens are gripped with fear of street fighting or a takeover by a vengeful Taliban. Panicked residents formed long lines outside banks, hoping to withdraw their savings, and some branches appeared to have already run out of cash.
Early on Sunday, the Taliban took control of the key eastern city of Jalalabad, which means the Taliban have secured major roads connecting the country to Pakistan.
“There are no clashes taking place right now in Jalalabad because the governor has surrendered to the Taliban. Allowing passage to the Taliban was the only way to save civilian lives,” a Jalalabad-based Afghan official told Reuters
A western security official confirmed the fall of the city.
Militants posted photos online early Sunday showing them in the governor’s office in the city, the capital of Nangarhar province.
“We woke up this morning to the Taliban white flags all over the city. They entered without fighting,” said Jalalabad resident Ahmad Wali.
Jalalabad is Afghanistan’s fifth-largest city and lies to the east of the capital. Its seizure follows the fall in the north of Mazar-i-Sharif, the country’s fourth-largest city, on Saturday.
Overnight, secretary of state Antony Blinken tweeted that he had had “productive” calls with the Canadian foreign minister and Afghan officials to reach a diplomatic solution.