The Taliban swiftly defeated, co-opted, or sent Afghan security forces fleeing from wide swathes of the country.
Hundreds of Kabul residents rushed to banks to withdraw money from their accounts, as Taliban fighters entered the city on Sunday demanding the unconditional surrender of the central government.
Afghans and foreigners alike also raced to exit the city, signalling the end of a 20-year Western experiment aimed at remaking Afghanistan.
Civilians fearing that the Taliban could reimpose the kind of brutal rule that all but eliminated women’s rights rushed to leave the country, lining up at cash machines to withdraw their life savings.
As he came to pick up his salary, Bostan Shah, a 24-year-old who was serving as a policeman in Kandahar told The Associated Press news agency that “the government is not solving our problems”.
Another policeman, 32-year-old Abdul Mossawer, complained about the wait outside the bank, saying bank workers repeatedly came out and gave various reasons for the delay.
The beleaguered Afghan government, meanwhile, had hoped for an interim administration but increasingly had few cards to play.
The Taliban said it would soon announce the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan from the presidential palace, as Afghanistan’s embattled president fled the country on Sunday.
Helicopters buzzed overhead to evacuate personnel from the US embassy, while smoke rose near the compound as staff destroyed important documents. Several other Western missions also prepared to pull their people out.
In a stunning rout, the Taliban seized nearly all of Afghanistan in just over a week, despite the billions of dollars spent by the US and NATO over nearly 20 years to build up Afghan security forces.
Just days earlier, an American military assessment estimated it would be a month before the capital would come under Taliban pressure.