The security situation in Afghanistan is changing quickly with evacuations of citizens, embassy staff by their respective countries as the Taliban edges closer to take control over Kabul. President Ashraf Ghani, along with National Security Adviser Hamdullah Muhib and head of the administrative office of President Fazel Mahmood Fazli has left for Tajikistan while some lawmakers have fled to Islamabad.
There is uncertainty about the future of leadership in the country, once again, signaling the end of a 20-year Western experiment aimed at remaking Afghanistan.
While reports say a delegation of Taliban and Afghanistan leaders will leave for Qatar for power transfer talks and who will take over as supreme head, speculations are there that Taliban's political bureau head Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar is likely to be the President.
Who is Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar?
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar was raised in Kandahar — the birthplace of the Taliban movement. Like most Afghans, Baradar's life was forever altered by the Soviet invasion of the country in the late 1970s, transforming him into an insurgent. He was believed to have fought side-by-side with the one-eyed cleric Mullah Omar.
The two would go on to found the Taliban movement in the early 1990s amid the chaos and corruption of the civil war that erupted after the Soviet withdrawal.
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Following the Taliban's collapse in 2001, Baradar is believed to have been among a small group of insurgents who approached interim leader Hamid Karzai with a letter outlining a potential deal that would have seen the militants recognise the new administration.
Arrested in Pakistan in 2010, Baradar was kept in custody until pressure from the United States saw him freed in 2018 and relocated to Qatar.
This is where he was appointed head of the Taliban's political office and oversaw the signing of the withdrawal agreement with the Americans.
Afghanistan situation right now
As Taliban advances in Kabul, Afghan media quoted acting defence minister Bismillah Mohammadi as saying that President Ghani — who flee the country — handed the authority of solving the "crisis" in the country to political leaders. Mohammadi said that a delegation will travel to Doha on Monday for talks on the country's situation.
Abdullah Abdullah, the chairman of Afghanistan's High Council for National Reconciliation, appeared to criticise Ghani for leaving the country and said "God will hold him accountable and the nation will also judge."
Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai said on Twitter that a coordinating council comprising himself, Abdullah Abdullah and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has been formed for transfer of power following President Ghani's departure.
Earlier in the day, the Afghan Presidential Palace said on Twitter that the situation was under control in Kabul and it has not been attacked, though there were instances of sporadic gunshots.
It said Afghan security forces were working with international partners to ensure the security of Kabul.
"Kabul has not been attacked. The country's security and defence forces are working together with international partners to ensure the security of the city and the situation is under control," the statement in Pashto said.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken described the Taliban's onslaught and the imminent fall of Kabul as "heart-wrenching stuff".
"We went to Afghanistan 20 years ago with one mission, and that mission was to deal with the folks who attacked us on 9/11. And we have succeeded in that mission," Blinken told CNN's "State of the Union" programme.
"The objective that we set, bringing those who attacked us to justice, making sure that they couldn't attack us again from Afghanistan - we've succeeded in that mission, and in fact, we succeeded a while ago," he said.
"And at the same time, remaining in Afghanistan for another one, five, ten years is not in the national interest," he added.
The Taliban made rapid advances across Afghanistan by resorting to widespread violence since the United States began withdrawing its troops from the country on May 1.