Afghanistan to have a ‘Peaceful Transfer of Power’ – Interior Minister

Afghan Minister of the Interior Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal says there will be a “peaceful transfer of power” to a transitional government after the Taliban ordered its fighters to hold back from entering Kabul.

“The Afghan people should not worry… There will be no attack on the city and there will be a peaceful transfer of power to the transitional government,” he said in a recorded speech.

The Taliban readied its forces on outskirts of the Afghan capital from all sides on Sunday as panicked civilians prepared for the armed group’s takeover of Kabul nearly 20 years after relinquishing power in an American-led assault.

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said fighters were remaining on the capital’s outskirts as negotiations took place.

“Our forces have not entered Kabul city, and we just issued a statement saying that our forces will not enter Kabul city,” Shaheen told Al Jazeera from Doha, Qatar, where peace talks are taking place.

“We are talking and awaiting a peaceful transfer – a transition of the capital city.”

Sirens could be heard along with sporadic gunfire in Kabul. Multiple helicopters were flying above the city centre dropping flares to prevent attacks by heat-seeking missiles.

The Taliban said it has no plans to take the Afghan capital “by force”.

“Negotiations are under way to ensure that the transition process is completed safely and securely, without compromising the lives, property and honour of anyone, and without compromising the lives of Kabulis,” a Taliban statement said.

Updated on 19/8/2021 (10 Moharram)

Afghanistan’s Exiled President Ashraf Ghani Lands in UAE

Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani has taken refuge in the United Arab Emirates, the Gulf nation says.

Mr Ghani left Afghanistan as the Taliban advanced on the capital city Kabul over the weekend.

The UAE’s foreign ministry said the country had welcomed Mr Ghani and his family on humanitarian grounds.

In a video address later on Wednesday, Mr Ghani denied fleeing and said he had left to prevent what he described as a “huge disaster”.

“For now, I am in the Emirates so that bloodshed and chaos is stopped,” he said. “I am currently in talks to return to Afghanistan.”

Mr Ghani also said rumours that he had travelled to the UAE with a large amount of money were “completely baseless” and “lies”.

The 72-year-old has faced intense criticism from other Afghan politicians for leaving the country.

“God will hold him accountable and the nation will also judge,” said Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation.

US President Joe Biden also criticised Afghanistan’s government for fleeing in a speech on Monday.

And later on Wednesday, the US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman told reporters that Mr Ghani was “no longer a figure in Afghanistan”.

However, the US has continued to refer to “President Ghani”, with the State Department saying that there has not been a formal handover of power.

In his video address, which was streamed live on Facebook, Mr Ghani said he was evacuated by his security team from the presidential palace “in a condition where I couldn’t even put on my shoes”.

“Events unfolded at a fast pace. I wanted to negotiate an inclusive government with the Taliban,” he said, adding that he supported talks between the Taliban and former officials from his administration.

This is not the first time the UAE has provided a safe haven for deposed or fugitive leaders from other countries. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto made Dubai her new home in the 1990s before later returning to power.

But the UAE, which hosts a large population of Afghan and Pakistani guest workers, will not want to see its territory used as a political platform, the BBC’s Security Correspondent Frank Gardner says.

Mr Ghani came into office in 2014 and was re-elected in February 2020.

‘Please Don’t Worry’

“The Islamic Emirate instructs all its forces to stand at the gates of Kabul, not to try to enter the city,” a spokesman for the Taliban tweeted, although some residents reported fighters peacefully entered some outer suburbs.

Panicked workers fled government offices. Thousands of civilians now live in parks and open spaces in Kabul itself, fearing the future.

The chief of staff to President Ashraf Ghani on Twitter urged the people of Kabul: “Please don’t worry. There is no problem. The situation of Kabul is under control.”

Afghan Interior Minister Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal said there would be a “peaceful transfer of power” to a transitional government after the Taliban ordered its fighters to hold back from entering Kabul.

“The Afghan people should not worry… There will be no attack on the city and there will be a peaceful transfer of power to the transitional government,” he said in a recorded speech.