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Taliban Sweep Through Afghanistan, Enter Kabul

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Taliban fighters stand guard along a street at the Massoud Square in Kabul on August 16, 2021.

The Taliban swept through Afghanistan, taking most of its 34 Afghan provincial capitals in about nine days. The insurgent group reached Kabul early Sunday.

Here is the latest:

Aug. 16 — In a nationally televised speech from the White House, U.S. President Joe Biden says he stands "squarely behind" his decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan, adding that "American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves."

Aug. 16 — Thousands of civilians gather at Kabul's international airport, where U.S. soldiers fire warning shots as people seeking to escape the Taliban run across the tarmac. Video from the airport shared on social media show Afghans clinging to the sides of a U.S. military aircraft, while another video shows what appears to be a person falling from a U.S. military plane after takeoff.

Aug. 16 — "The world is following events in Afghanistan with a heavy heart and deep disquiet about what lies ahead," United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres tells the U.N. Security Council. In a statement agreed to by all 15 members, the council calls for the immediate cessation of all hostilities and "the establishment, through inclusive negotiations, of a new government that is united, inclusive and representative — including with the full, equal and meaningful participation of women."

Aug. 15 — More than 60 countries call on all parties in Afghanistan to allow any Afghans or foreign nationals to leave the country if they wish to do so.

Aug. 15 — Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a co-founder and deputy Taliban chief, said late Sunday, “I am here to announce that we are responsible for your lives and all that pertain to everyday living, and to convince you that we will provide everything to make your lives better.”

Aug. 15 — Top members of the Taliban military commission arrived at the presidential palace in Kabul as Taliban fighters took positions at key posts in the city. A Taliban spokesman confirmed that they were directed to guard security posts and other installations in Kabul to “prevent chaos and looting after Afghan forces abandoned them.”

Aug. 15 — Afghan President Ashraf Ghani issued a statement Sunday confirming that he, along with his vice president and other senior officials, fled the country “to prevent bloodshed.”

Aug. 15 — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. is evacuating its remaining staff at its embassy in Kabul.

Aug. 15 — The Taliban have reached Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, and say they are awaiting a peaceful transfer of power. They earlier took over Jalalabad, capital of Nangarhar province.

Aug 15 — Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said their fighters took control of Bagram Air Base and the Parwan prison there and freed its inmates. There were about 5,000 high-value Taliban prisoners at Bagram, which served as the main base for the U.S.-led foreign military mission in Afghanistan.

Aug. 14 - U.S. President Joe Biden authorizes another 1,000 troops — in addition to the 3,000 ordered earlier this week — to assist in the evacuation of U.S. personnel and other allies from Kabul as Taliban insurgents drew closer to the Afghan capital.

Aug. 14 - Mazar-e-Sharif, the capital of northern Balkh province, falls to the Taliban after fierce fighting. Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid announces in a formal statement they have fully captured Mazar-e-Sharif, the country’s fourth-largest city, located on the border with Uzbekistan.

Aug. 14 - President Ashraf Ghani makes a televised address, saying rapid consultations are underway to end the fighting. Calls for revitalization of armed forces.

Aug. 14 - The Taliban seizes control of Asadabad, capital of eastern province of Kunar, Saturday afternoon.

Aug. 13 - Abdullah Abdullah returns from Doha, Qatar, with a proposal for a political deal, rumored to involve a cease-fire, between President Ashraf Ghani and the Taliban, according to a former Ghani spokesperson. Abdullah, the head of Afghanistan's High Council for National Reconciliation, is to return to Doha to discuss Ghani's decision with the Taliban.

Aug. 13 - Canada announces it is accepting 20,000 Afghan refugees, with the first planeload arriving in Toronto Friday, according to Agence France-Presse.

Aug. 13 - NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says NATO allies met in the North Atlantic Council to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. In a statement, he says "NATO will maintain our diplomatic presence in Kabul and continue to adjust as necessary" and that NATO's "aim remains to support the Afghan government & security forces as much as possible."

The following is a compilation of the provincial capitals the Taliban has captured. There are 34 provincial capitals in the country:

Captured provincial capitals:

Aug. 15 – Jalalabad, capital of eastern province of Nangarhar.

Aug. 14 – Mazar-e-Sharif, capital of northern Balkh province.

Aug. 14 – Asadabad, capital of eastern province of Kunar.

Aug. 14 – Maimana, capital of northern province of Faryab.

Aug. 14 – Mihtarlam, capital of eastern province of Laghman.

Aug. 14 – Gardiz, capital of eastern province of Paktia.

Aug. 14 - Sharana, capital of the southeastern Paktika province.

Aug. 13 – Qalat, capital of the southern province of Zabul.

Aug. 13 – Pol-e-Alam, capital of Logar province and hometown of President Ghani.

Aug. 13 – Firuzkoh, capital of central Ghor province.

Aug. 13 – Tarinkot, capital of southern Uruzgan province.

Aug. 13 – Lashkar Gah, capital of Helmand province in the south.

Aug. 12 – Kandahar, Afghanistan's second-largest city and capital of Kandahar province in the south.

Aug. 12 – Herat, Afghanistan's third-largest city and capital of the province of the same name. captured after two weeks of fighting.

Aug. 12 – Qala-e-Naw, capital of northwestern Badghis province.

Aug. 12 – Ghazni, capital of the province of the same name.

Aug. 11 – Faizabad, capital of the northeastern province of Badakhshan.

Aug. 10 – Farah, capital of the western province of the same name.

Aug. 10 – Pul-i-Khumri, capital of the central province of Baghlan.

Aug. 9 – Aybak, capital of the northern province of Samangan.

Aug. 8 – Taloqan, capital of the northern Takhar province.

Aug. 8 – Kunduz, strategic city that serves as the entryway to the northern provinces and Central Asia and is the capital of Kunduz province.

Aug. 8 – Sar-e Pul, capital of the province of the same name.

Aug. 7 – Sheberghan, capital of the northern province of Jawzjan.

Aug. 6 – Zaranj, capital of Nimroz province in the south, the first provincial capital to fall after the Taliban escalated attacks on Afghan forces in May.

Some information for this report came from Reuters and the Associated Press.

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