By Tariq Tahir
AFGHAN President Ashraf Ghani has fled the country after the Taliban entered the capital Kabul, a government official has said.
The fanatics have been in talks with the Government in a bid to secure a peaceful transition and avoid bloodshed as they surrounded and then entered the city.
Terrified residents have already begun fleeing in their cars leading to traffic jams, with a huge number of people now massing at the country’s borders.
The country’s President Ashraf Ghani is reported to be preparing to relinquish power ahead of the formation of an interim government.
The leadership of the hardline group said hundreds of its heavily armed fighters have been told to stand at entry points in Kabul.
“No one’s life, property and dignity will be harmed and the lives of the citizens of Kabul will not be at risk,” the Taliban said.
But questions remain about whether the Taliban leadership is able to control troops on the ground and prevent them taking revenge.
Parliament is to be recalled this week in response to the crisis and will sit on Wednesday but already there has been political reaction to the catastrophe.
Tory MP Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee described the Taliban victory “the biggest single foreign policy disaster” since Suez.
Tugendhat told BBC News that Afghans who helped the British now faced reprisals if they fell into the hands of the Taliban.
“This isn’t just about interpreters or guards,” he said.
“This is about those people who we trained in special forces to serve alongside us, those who helped us to understand the territory through our agencies and our diplomats.
“The real danger is that we are going to see every female MP murdered, we are going to see ministers strung up on street lamps.”
Fellow Tory MP and former army officer Johnny Mercer – who fought in Afghanistan – described the situation as “humiliating to watch”.
“Personally I think it’s shameful. It’s out of keeping with our values and our principles,” he told Sky News.
“I never thought I would see the day either as a soldier or a member of the Tory party that we would surrender to the Taliban.”
Mercer also questioned why the UK has followed the US lead in leaving the country.
“We don’t pour 40 billion pounds a year into a defence budget in order to not leave the gates or be able to do anything without the Americans,” he said.
Already people in Afghanistan are adjusting to the Taliban’s extreme interpretation of Islam.
Adverts depicting women’s faces were reportedly torn down to comply with the Taliban’s extreme interpretation of Islam.
Chillingly a spokesman said barbaric punishments such as stonings, amputations and executions are “up to courts”.
Panic stricken residents also queued up to get their money out of banks.
Whitehall insiders last night revealed a plan was being drawn up to operate a 770-mile military “shuttle” service to reach the haven of Dubai if commercial airlines become unviable.
The deployments of 600 troops, including members of 16 Air Assault Brigade, began this weekend as part of Operation Pitting, which aims to relocate Brits and Afghans facing Taliban reprisals for helping our forces.
But last night it emerged that Brtain is to abandon its diplomatic presence in Afghanistan as senior government sources said ambassador Sir Laurie Bristow and staff will join the evacuation.
British troops have been warned they could be drawn into face-to-face fighting with the Taliban.
AIRLIFT OF BRITS
They were briefed about a series of threats ranging from roadside bombs to suicide bombers and drone attacks.
SAS soldiers will link up with interpreters to secure local intelligence and be briefed by special forces colleagues and MI6 agents already based in Kabul.
Commanders want to avoid fighting but the Paras are deploying with grenade launchers and shoulder-fired anti-tank weapons.
But a major concern for the mission — officially termed Non Combatant Evacuation Operation — is the lack of aviation fuel at the airfield, which could hamper the pace of the airlift.
In addition, there were fears that the Taliban will fire on the airport using the latest US 155mm heavy artillery — which was seized from the Afghan army as they advanced across the country.
Radar to track and trace any in-direct Taliban fire such as mortars, rockets and artillery will also be deployed.
But one Whitehall source told The Sunday Times that the airport “will not hold for more than a few days”.
Officials in Logar province had been detained after it had been taken.
Mazar-e-Sharif, the capital of Balkh province, and the country’s fourth largest city fell last night.
And Laghman province, north east of Kabul, also fell last night without a fight. Unverified video footage also appeared to show the Taliban flag being flown in Asadabad, the capital of Kunar province, 150 miles east of Kabul.
Meanwhile, Afghan Hamidullah Abawi told The Sun on Sunday that refugees were swelling Kabul.
Abawi – who works for the education charity Street Child – said: “It’s chaotic here, there is no hope left. We can expect Kabul to fall very easily within days. People are rushing to take their money out of the banks.”