Ashraf Ghani: talks in progress to prevent more violence in Afghanistan

President's message delivered as Taliban militants reach borders of Kabul

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani speaks about the Taliban threat

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani speaks about the Taliban threat
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The Afghan government is holding talks with local leaders and international partners to end violence in the country, President Ashraf Ghani said on Saturday.

This comes as Taliban insurgents consolidate gains on the borders of the capital Kabul, after seizing control of most of Afghanistan.

Mr Ghani said he was remobilising the country's military forces after the crushing losses to the Taliban and vowed not to give up advances made by the country in the 20 years since the hardline group were toppled from power.

“I have started an intensive dialogue within the Afghan government, including with political leaders, representatives of various segments of the Afghan people, and also with international partners,” Mr Ghani said in a short televised speech.

“These are being conducted quickly and the result will be shared with you soon.

“As your president, it is my responsibility to prevent further instability, violence and displacement of my people.”

Mr Ghani was addressing the country for the first time since the militants seized most of the north, west and south of the country over eight days. The Taliban offensive has sent thousands of civilians fleeing to the capital for refuge.

“Under the current circumstances, remobilising the Afghan Security and Defence Forces is our top priority,” he said.

“I will not allow this imposed war to cause the killings of innocent people, lose the gains of 20 years and destroy public administration.”

Mr Ghani 's address came as officials reported that the Taliban had consolidated their hold on Logar, a province just south of Kabul that was seized on Friday, and seized the province of Paktika, further south on the border with Pakistan.

The militants also stepped up their attacks on Mazar-i-Sharif, a stronghold of the warlord and former vice president Abdul Rashid Dostum, and the only major city in the north to hold out against the Taliban.

With the country's second and third-largest cities, Kandahar and Herat, having fallen into Taliban hands, Kabul has effectively become the besieged last stand for government forces who have offered little or no resistance elsewhere.

Insurgent fighters are now camped just 50 kilometres away, leaving the US and other countries scrambling to airlift their nationals out of Kabul ahead of a feared all-out assault.

The Taliban stepped up their offensive in May as American and allied Nato forces began pulling out of Afghanistan, nearly 20 years after the US-led invasion that toppled their hardline regime.

But US Marines began flying back into Kabul on Friday to oversee emergency evacuations of diplomatic staff, civilians and Afghans at risk of Taliban retribution for working with the foreign forces.

At the US embassy, staff were ordered to begin shredding and burning sensitive material, as the first American troops from a planned 3,000-strong redeployment started arriving.

A host of European countries, including Britain, Germany, Denmark and Spain, all announced the withdrawal of personnel from their embassies.

The scale and speed of the Taliban advance have shocked Afghans and the US-led alliance that poured billions into the country after toppling the insurgents after the Al Qaeda 9/11 attacks in 2001.

For Kabul residents and the tens of thousands who have sought refuge in the city in recent weeks, the overwhelming mood was one of confusion and fear.

Muzhda, 35, a single woman who arrived in the capital with her two sisters after fleeing nearby Parwan province, said she was terrified for the future.

“I am crying day and night,” she told AFP

“I have turned down marriage proposals in the past … If the Taliban come and force me to marry, I will commit suicide.”

Despite the frantic evacuation efforts, US President Joe Biden's administration continues to insist that a complete Taliban takeover is not inevitable.

“Kabul is not right now in an imminent threat environment,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on Friday, while acknowledging that Taliban fighters were “trying to isolate” the city.

Updated: August 14, 2021, 2:12 PM