Updated Aug 16, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Taliban declare victory in Afghanistan

Taliban fighters sit on a vehicle along the street in Jalalabad province on August 15

Taliban fighters sit on a vehicle along the street in Jalalabad province on Sunday. Photo: AFP via Getty Images

Taliban leaders declared Monday "the war is over," after taking control of Afghanistan nearly 20 years on from the militant group fleeing a U.S.-led coalition march into Kabul.

Driving the news: The declaration to Al Jazeera came after the Taliban seized the presidential palace in Kabul on Sunday, and following the U.S. evacuation of the American Embassy on Monday. The U.S. was taking over air traffic control at Kabul's airport, where chaotic scenes were reported Monday, as foreigners and Afghan citizens attempted to flee.

  • Mohammad Naeem, the spokesperson for the Taliban’s political office, told Al Jazeera the group was "ready to have a dialogue with all Afghan figures and will guarantee them the necessary protection" and that the type of the Afghan government would soon be made clear.
  • "Today is a great day for the Afghan people and the mujahideen. They have witnessed the fruits of their efforts and their sacrifices for 20 years," Naeem said. "Thanks to God, the war is over in the country."
  • President Ashraf Ghani fled the country Sunday. The same day, former President Hamid Karzai released a statement announcing the creation of a "coordination council" for the transfer that consists of him, Abdullah Abdullah, the chair of Afghanistan's High Council for National, and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, leader of Hizb-e-Islami political and paramilitary group.

The big picture: As the U.S. accelerated its military withdrawal this summer, the Taliban gained ground with extraordinary speed, capturing provincial capitals at a rate that shocked the Biden administration and international community.

  • In less than a month, the United States will mark 20 years since the 9/11 attacks, which led the U.S. into its longest war.
  • President Biden said in July the original goals of the U.S. invasion had long since been achieved and, thus, America's exit was "quite frankly overdue."
The closed entrance to to the U.S. embassy in Kabul on Aug. 15, 2021.
The closed entrance gate of the American embassy on Aug. 15. Photo: Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty Images
  • Biden blamed his predecessor, former President Trump, for empowering the Taliban and leaving them "in the strongest position militarily since 2001" but said in a statement that he had to make a choice and that he would not pass on the war to a "fifth" U.S. president.

What to watch: The Taliban’s co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who heads the group’s political committee, was expected to be named president.

  • Pakistan released Baradar, who was the deputy of Mullah Omar, the founder of the Taliban, in 2018.
  • Baradar released a message Sunday saying "we have reached a victory that wasn't expected … now it's time of test — now it's about how we serve and secure our people, and ensure their future/good life to best of ability."

What's next: The U.N. Security Council has called an emergency meeting for Monday morning.

  • Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Mark Milley told senators Sunday that a previous assessment of how soon terrorist groups would likely reconstitute in Afghanistan will speed up because of what's happening there now, according to three sources on the phone call.
  • On the call between top Biden officials and senators from both parties, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) asked Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Milley whether, in light of recent events, they would revise an assessment to Congress in June of a "medium" risk of terrorist groups reconstituting in Afghanistan within two years.
  • Milley responded "yes" — that he would have to assume that that timeline would get moved up, and that he would be happy to brief senators in a classified setting.

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