India is gearing up to evacuate hundreds of its officials and citizens from Kabul after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani left Afghanistan, setting the stage for the Taliban to recapture power in the country two decades after a US-led military invasion ousted it in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
Afghan media reported that Mr Ghani and his close aides have left the country with the Taliban on the brink of seizing control of Kabul after taking over almost all leading cities and provincial capitals.
As Afghanistan stares at an uncertain future with the imminent fall of Kabul into the hands of the Taliban, several countries including the US and the UK scrambled to evacuate their staff from the city that has been gripped by fear and panic.
People tracking developments in Afghanistan said India has prepared all contingencies and eventualities including evacuating its staff in its embassy in Kabul as well as Indian citizens stranded in the country.
It is learnt that a fleet of C-17 Globemaster military transport aircraft of the Indian Air Force is kept on standby to undertake evacuation missions.
The people cited above said India will not put the lives of its staffers at the embassy and its citizens in Kabul at any risk and plans have already been finalised in case they require emergency evacuation.
“The government is closely monitoring fast-paced developments in Afghanistan. We will not put the lives of our staff at the Indian Embassy in Kabul at any risk,” said a source.
However, there is no official comment from India on the fast-paced developments in Afghanistan.
In the last few days, the Taliban fighters have swept through most parts of the country, seizing control of around 25 of 34 provincial capitals including cities such as Kandahar, Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif and Jalalabad.
Afghan media quoted acting defence minister Bismillah Mohammadi as saying that President Ghani handed the authority of solving the “crisis” in the country to political leaders.
Mr 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 Mr 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,” Mr 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.