Afghan president Ghani says left to prevent 'flood of bloodshed'
Afghan president Ghani left the country as Taliban claimed control over Kabul, several countries evacuated diplomatic personnel from the country, and there was chaos in the streets of the capital city.
Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani has said he left the country in order to avoid "bloodshed" after the Taliban took over Kabul after nearly two decades of being ousted from power by a US-led invasion. Ghani left as the insurgents closed in on Afghanistan's capital before entering the city and taking over the presidential palace.
Ghani in his first comments after he left Afghanistan said on Sunday he was faced with a "hard choice" between the "armed Taliban" or "leaving the dear country that I dedicated my life to protecting the past 20 years".
"The Taliban have won with the judgement of their swords and guns, and are now responsible for the honour, property and self-preservation of their countrymen," Ghani said in a statement posted to Facebook. "They are now facing a new historical test. Either they will preserve the name and honour of Afghanistan or they will give priority to other places and networks," he added, saying he left to prevent a "flood of bloodshed".
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"If left unchecked, countless patriots would be martyred and the city of Kabul would be devastated, resulting in a major humanitarian catastrophe in the six-million-strong city," he said.
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Ghani did not say where he went but leading Tolo News suggested he had gone to Tajikistan.
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Abdullah Abdullah, the chairman of the Afghanistan Supreme National Reconciliation Council, addressed Ghani as the "former president" of Afghanistan in a video message posted on Twitter. "Hope this 'hard day and night' will pass soon and people will see peaceful days," Abdullah said and called on Afghans to remain calm.
One of the Taliban's key demands was Ghani's departure from office during peace talks with the government, but he did not relent. The insurgents said they want a "peaceful transfer" within the next few days.
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The Taliban's sweep through Afghanistan was quick and they took over rural areas as well as cities in a matter of weeks as US and Nato forces started preparing to leave.
UN secretary general Antonio Guterres has urged the Taliban and all parties to "exercise restraint" and said that the rights of women and girls, who suffered under the previous Taliban regime, be protected. The UN also said the Security Council would meet over Afghanistan on Monday.