President Ashraf Ghani has left Afghanistan for Tajikistan as Taliban closes in on Kabul, according to the country’s top peace negotiator Abdullah Abdullah.
“The former Afghan president has left the nation,” Abdullah, the head of the High Council for National Reconciliation, said in a video on his Facebook page.
Ghani’s departure comes amid negotiations for a peaceful transfer of power after Taliban fighters encircled Kabul after capturing 26 of the country’s 34 provincial capitals in less than two weeks.
Meanwhile, a Taliban official told Reuters they were checking reports about Ghani’s departure from the country.
On Sunday, Taliban troops surrounded Afghanistan’s seat of power, promising it had instructed its fighters to refrain from violence and offer safe passage to anyone wishing to leave Kabul.
The Taliban said they will enter the capital Kabul to prevent looting after local police deserted their posts, a spokesman for the armed group said late on Sunday.
The statement by Zabihullah Mujahid came shortly after a top Afghan peace envoy said President Ashraf Ghani had left the country.
Meanwhile Moscow does not yet recognise the Taliban as Afghanistan’s new lawful authority, RIA state news agency quoted the Russian foreign ministry as saying on Sunday.
The ministry also told RIA that Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani was unlikely to head to Russia after leaving his country.
Taliban fighters surrounded Afghanistan’s capital Kabul on Sunday as the world waited to see what negotiations around a transfer of power would result in.
The armed group seized nearly all of Afghanistan in just over a week, sending thousands of internally displaced people fleeing the fighting to Kabul, seeking safety.
In spite of hundreds of billions of dollars spent by the US and NATO to build up Afghan security forces, the Taliban swiftly defeated, co-opted, or sent Afghan security forces fleeing from wide swaths of the country.