A Taliban flag was painted on the walls outside the former US embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, new photos show.
The flag appeared to have been painted in the past few days, and was shared by photojournalist Jake Simkin on Monday.
The embassy was abandoned by US diplomats on August 15 as the city fell to the militant group amid America’s chaotic withdrawal from the country.
Embassy operations have since been moved to Doha, the capital of Qatar, and are focused chiefly on processing immigrant visas for refugees.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on August 30, after the last US troops had left the country, that he anticipated the embassy would remain closed for the foreseeable future.
A Taliban flag was painted on the walls outside the former US embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, photos show
Murals outside the former US embassy in Kabul have been painted over white with black Arabic text since the US pulled out of the country last week
The embassy was abandoned by US diplomats on August 15 as Kabul fell to the Taliban. A helicopter was seen evacuating the workers in scenes reminiscent of the fall of Saigon in 1975
The entrance to the embassy as it appeared on August 26, in the leadup to the full US withdrawal from the country on August 30
‘Given the uncertain security environment and political situation in Afghanistan, it was the prudent step to take,’ he said.
On the other side of the entrance the Taliban appeared to have painted the group’s version of the Shahada Statement, which is a statement of belief core to Islamic tradition.
The flag, which features a depiction of the Quran, appeared after murals on thick concrete perimeter walls around the embassy compound were painted over white with black Arabic text earlier in the week.
‘The US embassy is now in the possession of the Taliban,’ Simkin wrote on Twitter. ‘The walls out front are now painted with their emblem and flag.’
The development came as the Taliban continued to consolidate its control over the country, and claimed it had taken complete control of Panjshir province, the last area of the country being held by resistance forces.
The Islamists released footage of their white banner flying over the provincial capital of Bazarak on Monday after a swift battle which saw them overwhelm the resistance.
Resistance leader Ahmad Massoud appeared to admit defeat in an audio message sent to the media in which he called on Afghans for a ‘a national uprising for the dignity, freedom and prosperity of our country.’
Meanwhile the Taliban continued to consolidate its power over the country, and was seen Monday raising its flag outside its new ‘headquarters’ in Panjshir province – the last holdout of anti-Taliban forces in Afghanistan since the group’s blitz across the country last month
Ahmad Massoud (pictured center in 2019), the leader of the Afghan National Resistance Front called on Afghans to ‘begin a national uprising for the dignity, freedom and prosperity of our country’ as he appeared to admit defeat
The Taliban claim he has fled to Turkey.
If it is proven true that Massoud, 32 – the son of legendary freedom fighter Ahmad Shah, the ‘Lion of the Panjshir’ – it will surely be a hammer blow to any remaining resistance fighters in the province.
Commanders from the vanquished Afghan National Army and their staff had headed to the region to join up with Massoud’s band of warriors, ethnic Tajiks who have long fought against Taliban rule.
Massoud, a King’s College London and Sandhurst graduate, was reportedly still in the province as of Sunday with former vice president and ally Amrullah Saleh.
They had offered peace talks to the jihadists which were rejected.
Meanwhile, the US State Department has been accused of blocking dozens of Americans from fleeing Afghanistan after failing to tell the Taliban it had green-lighted charter flights for Americans and Afghan visa holders trying to flee the country.
In the north of the country, six planes are seen on the tarmac at Mazar Sharif Airport in Afghanistan, amid claims a blunder by the US State Department has prevented them from evacuating Americans and Afghan visa holders
On Sunday, Reuters reported that the delay had been caused by Biden administration officials not telling Taliban leaders it had approved the departures of the chartered flights from an airport in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, 260 miles north of Afghan capital Kabul.
An exasperated flight organizer hit out at the State Department over the fiasco, saying: ‘They need to be held accountable for putting these people’s lives in danger.’
Other groups trying to organize their own chartered flights have also hit out at the State Department, with Rick Clay from private rescue firm PlanB claiming the organization is the only thing stopping him fulfilling his brief.
Two other organizers have also torn into the Anthony Blinken-headed department, with one – who didn’t give their name – telling Fox: ‘This is zero place to be negotiating with American lives. Those are our people standing on the tarmac and all it takes is a f****ing phone call.
‘If one life is lost as a result of this, the blood is on the White House’s hands. The blood is on their hands. It is not the Taliban that is holding this up – as much as it sickens me to say that – it is the United States government.’
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken waves as he gets ready to board an aircraft from Joint Base Andrews in Maryland to travel to Doha on Sunday evening for Afghan talks
One of those organizers also claimed that any rescue charter flights wishing to land at Al Udeid Air Base in Doha, Qatar, must first seek State Department approval, leaving them with a further bureaucratic delay.
The New York Times reported that a total of 1,000 people – including dozens of American citizens – had been held at the city’s airport for five days.
Other passengers hoping to fly include Afghans who hold visas to move to other countries, including the United States.
Sources told the paper that the Taliban was to blame for refusing to give the jets clearance to take off for Qatar, but also said that negotiations between the US, Taliban and Qatar had been continuing for days.
Further details on the reason for the delay in discussions has not been disclosed. although Secretary of State Anthony Blinken jetted to Qatar on Sunday to discuss the issue with leaders there.
Earlier on Sunday, Republican Representative Michael McCaul appeared on Fox News also blamed the Taliban for the ongoing delays at Mazar-i-sharif.
His remarks – also reported by Reuters and the Times – claimed that six planes were being banned from taking off.
Texas Republican Representative Michael McCaul said on Sunday that there are at least six planes holding Americans that are being prevented by the Taliban from taking off from the Mazar Sharif Airport in Afghanistan
The Texan lawmaker claimed the Islamist extremist group was using the jets and their passengers as a ‘bargaining chip’ in the hopes of its newly-victorious leadership gaining recognition from the US government.
But Marina LeGree, who founded nonprofit Ascend, says the 34 people she had hoped to get on the charter flight were not being held hostage.
She said that, while currently barred from flying out of Afghanistan, the Taliban had allowed the prospective travelers, several of them women aged 16 to 23, to leave the airport.
A State Department spokesman disputed claims that Americans’ safety was at risk, but said the lack of a US presence in Afghanistan made it impossible to confirm the details of charter flights, including the number of US citizens hoping to get a seat, as well as the planes’ intended destinations.
An Afghan official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, said it was four planes, and their intended passengers were staying at hotels while authorities worked out whether they might be able to leave the country. The sticking point, he indicated, is that many did not have the right travel papers.
Residents of Mazar-e-Sharif also said the passengers were no longer at the airport. At least 10 families were seen at a local hotel waiting, they said, for a decision on their fates. None of them had passports or visas but said they had worked for companies allied with the U.S. or German military. Others were seen at restaurants.
A Taliban soldier patrols at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul
A Taliban soldier stands guard at the gate of Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul
The small airport at Mazar-e-Sharif only recently began to handle international flights and so far only to Turkey. The planes in question were bound for Doha, Qatar, the Afghan official said. It was not clear who chartered them or why they were waiting in the northern city.
Since their takeover, the Taliban have sought to recast themselves as different from their 1990s incarnation, when they last ruled the country and imposed repressive restrictions across society. Women and girls were denied work and education, men were forced to grow beards, and television and music were banned.
Now, the world is waiting to see the face of the new government, and many Afghans remain skeptical. In the weeks since they took power, signals have been mixed: Government employees including women have been asked to return to work, but some women were later ordered home by lower-ranking Taliban. Universities and schools have been ordered open, but fear has kept both students and teachers away.
Women have demonstrated peacefully, some even having conversations about their rights with Taliban leaders. But some have been dispersed by Taliban special forces firing in the air.