The Taliban victory is a major humiliation for the US, but perhaps that’s the silver lining of the Afghan tragedy.
Kabul remained tensely calm on Tuesday as the Taliban declared an “amnesty” across Afghanistan and urged women to join its government days after the armed group took over the country.
The Taliban tried to reassure nervous people in the capital city, many of whom converged on the airport trying to flee the country, fearing more violence.
On Tuesday, Kabul’s international airport, the only way out for many, reopened to military evacuation flights under the watch of US troops. Commercial flights still remain suspended.
Here are some significant developments:
Taliban holds talks on an interim government
The Associated Press news agency has cited an anonymous official as saying that senior Taliban leader Amir Khan Muttaqi is in the Afghan capital negotiating government formation with Kabul’s political leadership, including former President Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, who once headed the country’s negotiating council.
The official says the talks are aimed at bringing other non-Taliban leaders into a government that Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen has said will be an “inclusive Afghan government”.
Afghans familiar with the talks say some sessions have gone late into the night and have been under way since soon after Ghani’s departure.
Meanwhile, the Taliban has urged women to join its government as Enamullah Samangani, a member of the Taliban’s cultural commission, made the first comments on governance on a federal level.
“The Islamic Emirate doesn’t want women to be victims,” Samangani said, using the group’s term for Afghanistan. “They should be in government structure according to Shariah law.”
He adds: “The structure of government is not fully clear, but based on experience, there should be a fully Islamic leadership and all sides should join.”
Kabul’s airport runway cleared
The runway at Kabul’s airport is free for takeoff and landing again, according to a tweet by Stefano Pontecorvo, NATO’s representative in Afghanistan.
Flights had to be suspended on Monday amid chaos at the airport.
The crowds – which included embassy staff, local hires, foreign nationals and many who simply fear that the Taliban will impose repressive rule – spilled out onto the runways on Monday, crowding any plane that landed and making arrivals and departures impossible.
Images circulated online of planes full of Afghan refugees taking off after officials decided not to try to keep them out. There were also reports of people falling to their deaths after they lost their grip while clinging to the outside of departing planes.
Evacuations under way amid uncertainty
Multiple countries are seeking to pull their nationals out amid the uncertainty.
About 640 Afghans on Monday crammed into a US C-17 transport aircraft to fly to Qatar – a photo of the journey was widely shared.
Turkey on Monday launched an evacuation operation to bring back Turkish citizens in Afghanistan, dispatching a Boeing 777-300 ER aircraft to the airport, which returned home with 324 passengers on board.
Germany’s first of three evacuation planes managed to bring only seven people home due to the chaos at the airport.
India evacuated its embassy in Kabul early on Tuesday, with an Indian Air Force flight carrying 170 Indians, including the ambassador along with staff members and paramilitary guards, the state-run broadcaster Doordarshan reported.
The first French plane evacuated an unidentified number of people through the United Arab Emirates, according to a defence ministry official.
Sweden’s Foreign Minister Ann Linde wrote on Twitter on Tuesday that the staff of the Swedish Embassy in Kabul had returned to Sweden. Japanese diplomats were evacuated, and Spain sent military planes to pull people out as well.
Other countries are petitioning neighbours to try and help get their nationals out.
Nepal has written to several governments for aid in evacuating its 1,500 citizens, according to the foreign ministry.
A chartered flight on Tuesday flew out 127 Nepalese nationals who were working at the embassies of the United States and allies.
They had been first flown to Kuwait and then taken on a flight chartered by the US government to Kathmandu.
Meanwhile, the US is in talks with the Taliban to take control of the airport
Situation on the ground
The Taliban moved on Tuesday to quickly restart the Afghan capital following their stunning takeover of Kabul and told government staff to return to work, though residents reacted cautiously and few women came out on the streets.
The mayor of Kabul and the acting minister of public health were among those who returned to their jobs on Tuesday.
Some shops reopened as traffic police were back on the streets.
However, schools and universities remain closed, few women were on the streets and some men had shed their Western clothes for traditional garb.
“The fear is there,” said a shopkeeper who asked not to be named after opening his small neighbourhood provisions store.
Private homes in Kabul are off-limits and personal cars should not be stolen, the deputy head of the Taliban has told his fighters, as the group cements its control of Afghanistan.
The audio message was attributed to Mullah Yaqoob, head of the Taliban’s military commission, and aired by local TV broadcaster ToloNews.
Across Afghanistan, the International Committee of the Red Cross said thousands had been wounded in fighting as the Taliban swept across the country in recent days.