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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Afghan president in talks as Taliban near Kabul

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Afghan president in talks as Taliban near Kabul
Afghan president in talks as Taliban near Kabul

Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani held urgent talks with local leaders and international partners on Saturday as Taliban rebels pushed closer to Kabul, capturing a town south of the capital that is one of the gateways to the city.

Olivia Chan reports.

Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani said on Saturday that (August 14) he was in urgent talks with local leaders and international partners as Taliban rebels pushed closer to Kabul.

In a brief televised address, he gave no sign of responding to a Taliban demand that he resign for any talks on a ceasefire and political settlement.

"In the current situation, the re-integration of the security and defense forces is our priority, and serious measures are being taken in this regard." He spoke soon after the insurgents took Pul-e-Alam, just 40 miles south of Kabul, according to a local provincial council member.

On Friday, Kandahar, the economic hub of the south, also fell under Taliban control as U.S. led international forces complete their withdrawal after 20 years of war.

Herat in the west, near the border with Iran, also fell to the group.

As the insurgents took the country's second and third-biggest city, American troops have begun flying to Kabul to help evacuate embassy personnel and other civilians, according to a U.S. official.

Britain and several other Western nations are also sending troops as resistance from Afghan government forces crumbles and fears grow that an assault on the capital could be just days away.

The Pentagon has said two battalions of Marines and one infantry battalion will arrive in Kabul by Sunday evening, involving about 3,000 troops.

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby briefed reporters on Friday: "Kabul is not right now in an imminent threat environment, but clearly, if you just look at what the Taliban has been doing, you can see that they are trying to isolate Kabul." Some embassies in the capital have begun to burn sensitive material ahead of evacuating, according to diplomats.

The speed of the Taliban's gains has led to recriminations over the U.S. withdrawal.

President Joe Biden said this week he did not regret his decision to follow through with the withdrawal.

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