Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani has left the country just hours after the Taliban instructed its militants to wait on the outskirts of the capital.
Afghanistan's troubled president has fled the country, following a stampede of Afghans and foreigners fleeing the advancing Taliban and signaling the end of a 20-year Western experiment aimed at reconstructing the country.
President Ghani left on Sunday, according to Abdullah Abdullah, the head of the Afghan National Reconciliation Council, who confirmed it in an online video.
"Afghanistan's former president left, leaving the country in this difficult circumstance," Abdullah remarked.
"God should hold him accountable," two sources told The Associated Press news agency, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief media. Ghani flew out of the country, according to two officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief journalists.
Ghani reportedly left for Tajikistan, according to local media.
Abdullah stated that he wants security forces to continue to protect Kabul and that the Taliban should wait for discussions before entering the city.
However, the Taliban, who had been on the outskirts of Kabul for hours, stated shortly after that they would march deeper into the capital, which had been gripped by panic all day as helicopters raced overhead evacuating employees from the US embassy.
After personnel destroyed crucial documents, smoke surged around the compound.
Several other Western missions were also planning to evacuate their personnel.
Fearing that the Taliban would reimpose the kind of ruthless rule that effectively erased women's rights, civilians hastened to flee the nation as well, lined up at ATMs to withdraw their life savings.
Many of the desperately poor lingered in parks and open spaces throughout the city, having fled their homes in the countryside in search of hoped-for refuge in the capital.
Despite billions of dollars spent by the US and NATO to build up Afghan security forces over nearly two decades, the Taliban has conquered 26 of Afghanistan's 34 provincial capitals in a shocking sweep since August 6.
Just days previously, an American military assessment predicted that the capital would be under Taliban pressure for a month.
Instead, despite receiving some air backing from the American military, the Taliban quickly beat, co-opted, or drove Afghan security forces out of large sections of the nation.
The Taliban reportedly reached the outskirts of Kabul on Sunday, but remained outside the city's center area.
Though the streets were mostly silent, sporadic gunfire could be heard.
Suhail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban, told Al Jazeera that the group is "waiting for a peaceful transfer of Kabul city."
He remained tight-lipped about any potential talks between his soldiers and the government.
When asked what kind of arrangement the Taliban sought, Shaheen said that they wanted the central government to resign unconditionally.
Taliban negotiators arrived in Kabul on Sunday to discuss the handover of power, according to an Afghan official who spoke to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.
It was unclear when the transfer would take place, or who among the Taliban was in charge of the talks.
Former President Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah were among the government's negotiators.
Abdullah has been a prominent opponent of Ghani, who has long refused to relinquish power in exchange for a peace accord with the Taliban.
Before exiting the country, Ghani appeared increasingly isolated.
He has no military alternative because the strongmen he talked with just days ago have surrendered to the Taliban or left.
Talks in Doha, Qatar's capital and home to a Taliban office, have so far failed to halt the group's march.
Acting Defense Minister Bismillah Khan, meanwhile, sought to reassure the public that Kabul will remain "safe."
The Taliban also attempted to reassure inhabitants of the capital by stating that their militants would not invade people's houses or disrupt their businesses.
They further stated that people who worked with the Afghan government or international forces would be granted "amnesty."
"No one's life, property, or dignity will be jeopardized, and the lives of Kabul residents will not be jeopardized," the group stated in a statement.
Nonetheless, there have been tales of retaliatory killings and other heinous techniques in areas of the country that the Taliban has recently controlled.
On Sunday, the Taliban captured the capitals of Maidan Wardak, Khost, Kapisa, and Parwan provinces, according to Afghan officials.
On Sunday, Taliban gunmen took control of the remaining uncontrolled land border with Pakistan, Torkham.
Pakistan's Interior Minister, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, told local network Geo TV that once the Taliban took control of the area, Pakistan banned cross-border traffic.
According to Bagram district administrator Darwaish Raufi, Afghan forces at Bagram airbase, which houses a prison with 5,000 inmates, surrendered to the Taliban.
Taliban and ISIL (ISIS) terrorists were incarcerated in the former American base's prison.
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