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‘War is over in Afghanistan’ – Taliban spokesman

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President Ashraf Ghani fled the country on Sunday as the Islamist militants entered the city, saying he wanted to avoid bloodshed, while hundreds of Afghans desperate to leave flooded Kabul airport.

“Today is a great day for the Afghan people and the mujahideen. They have witnessed the fruits of their efforts and their sacrifices for 20 years,” Mohammad Naeem, the spokesman for the Taliban’s political office, told Al Jazeera TV.

“Thanks to God, the war is over in the country.”

‘War is over in Afghanistan’ – Taliban spokesman
Taliban Spokesman  Mohammad Naeem

Meanwhile, the Taliban announced Sunday they would be declaring the country the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, solidifying their takeover of the US-backed Afghan Government.

From 1996 to 2001, the Taliban ruled the country under the same name. Only a handful of countries recognized the regime, including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Turkmenistan.

During the five-year reign of the previous Emirate of Afghanistan, the Taliban imposed a strict interpretation of Sharia law nationwide. These included significant restrictions on women, who were not allowed to leave their homes without a male companion and were required to be fully covered from head to feet when in public.

The Taliban has always used the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in its official communications.

It took the Taliban just over a week to seize control of the country after lightning sweep that ended in Kabul as Afghan forces, trained for years and equipped by the United States and others at a cost of billions of dollars, melted away.

Al Jazeera broadcast footage of what it said were Taliban commanders in the Presidential Palace with dozens of armed fighters.

Naeem said the form of the new regime in Afghanistan would be made clear soon, adding the Taliban did not want to live in isolation and calling for peaceful international relations.

“We have reached what we were seeking, which is the freedom of our country and the independence of our people,” he said. “We will not allow anyone to use our lands to target anyone, and we do not want to harm others.”More than 60 Western countries, including the United States, Britain, France and Japan, issued a joint statement saying all Afghans and international citizens who wanted to leave the country must be allowed to depart.

“The Afghan people deserve to live in safety, security and dignity,” the statement said. “We in the international community stand ready to assist them.”

Aid group Emergency said 80 wounded people had been brought to its hospital in Kabul, which was at capacity, and that it was only admitting people with life-threatening injuries. Some local social media users in Kabul branded Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, a coward for leaving them in chaos. A tweet from the verified account of the Afghan Embassy in India said: “We are all banging our heads in shame.”

In Washington, opponents of President Joe Biden’s decision to end America’s longest war, launched after the September 11, 2001, attacks, said the chaos was caused by a failure of leadership. Many Afghans fear the Taliban will return to past harsh practices in their imposition of sharia, or Islamic religious law. During their 1996-2001 rule, women could not work and punishments such as stoning, whipping and hanging were administered. Russia said it saw no need to evacuate its embassy for the time being. Turkey said its embassy would continue operations. – THE INDIAN EXPRESS

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