Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said Saturday the remobilization of the country’s armed forces was a “top priority” as Taliban fighters inched closer to the capital after routing the country’s defenses over the past week.
The president gave no hint he would resign or take responsibility for the current situation, but said “consultations” were taking place to try to help end the war.
“The remobilization of our security and defense forces is our top priority, and serious steps are being taken in this regard,” he said, appearing somber and sitting before an Afghan flag in a televised speech.
But Ghani offered few specifics on what his administration was planning as the government’s control over Afghanistan has all but collapsed in recent days.
The announcement came as US Marines returned to oversee emergency evacuations from Afghanistan and foreign embassies scrambled to pull out their staff as security deteriorated.
With the country’s second and third-largest cities having fallen into Taliban hands, Kabul has effectively become the besieged last stand for government forces who have offered little or no resistance elsewhere.
Insurgent fighters are now camped just 50 kilometers away, leaving the United States and other countries scrambling to airlift their nationals out of Kabul ahead of a feared all-out assault.
Heavy fighting was also reported around Mazar-i-Sharif, an isolated holdout in the north where warlord and former vice president Abdul Rashid Dostum had gathered his virulently anti-Taliban militia.
The only other cities of any significance not to be taken yet were Jalalabad, Gardez, and Khost—Pashtun-dominated and unlikely to offer much resistance now.
In Kabul, US embassy staff were ordered to begin shredding and burning sensitive material, as the first American troops from a planned 3,000-strong re-deployment started arriving to secure the airport and oversee evacuations.
A host of European countries—including Britain, Germany, Denmark, and Spain—all announced the withdrawal of personnel from their respective embassies on Friday.
The scale and speed of the Taliban advance have shocked Afghans and the US-led alliance that poured billions into the country after toppling the insurgents in the wake of the September 11 attacks nearly 20 years ago.
Days before a final US withdrawal ordered by President Joe Biden, individual Afghan soldiers, units, and even whole divisions have surrendered—handing the Taliban even more vehicles and military hardware to fuel their lightning advance.