By Mychael Schnell
Taliban fighters entered the presidential palace in Kabul on Sunday, the latest advance by the insurgent group as it takes over the capital city of Afghanistan.
Al Jazeera posted and aired photos of Taliban fighters in the presidential palace hours after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani left the country as the insurgent group started entering Kabul.
Taliban leadership addressed the media from the presidential palace while surrounded by dozens of armed fighters, Al Jazeera reported.
A Taliban official told The Associated Press that the insurgent group will soon announce the establishment of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan from the presidential palace.
That was the name of the country that was under Taliban control before the group was driven out by U.S.-led forces following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the AP noted.
The breach of the presidential palace in Kabul comes amid chaos in Afghanistan and after the insurgent group seized the capital city.
Ghani fled the country Sunday morning, writing in a Facebook post later that day that he decided to leave to avoid bloodshed.
The U.S. is now pulling its embassy staff from the country in anticipation of a potential Taliban takeover.
The American flag at the embassy in Kabul was taken down on Sunday, marking the final step in the evacuation of staff from the consulate.
The capture of Kabul comes after weeks of escalating violence and a deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, which ramped up as the U.S. inched closer to completing its withdrawal mission from the region.
President Biden in April announced that the U.S. would pull all troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that led to America’s longest war.
He moved the target date up to Aug. 31 last month.
The Taliban, however, began making gains as the U.S. and NATO protection in the region shrank. The insurgent group seized a number of Afghanistan’s largest provincial capitals over the past two weeks, including Kandahar and Herat, which led to the capture of Kabul on Sunday.