Afghanistan updates: US Embassy says to avoid airport because it’s taking fire

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(WASHINGTON) — US Embassy says to avoid airport because it’s taking fireTaliban militants have been ordered to enter Kabul, following earlier assurances by Taliban officials that they do not intend to take Afghanistan’s capital by force

According to a statement, the Taliban ordered its fighters to enter the city because “now there are reports that districts in Kabul have been evacuated, police have left their job of providing security, ministries have been evacuated, and security personnel from the Kabul administration have fled.”

“So that God forbid the common thieves and robbers in Kabul do not mix, the abusers do not harm the people, the Islamic Emirate ordered its forces to enter the areas of Kabul from which the enemy went and areas there is a risk of theft and robbery,” the statement continued.

The Taliban went on to tell Kabul residents that they should not fear these troops and that none would enter anyone’s homes or harass anyone.

However, a short time later, the U.S. Embassy issued a security alert urging Americans to shelter in place and avoid the airport, which was reportedly taking fire. Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Twitter that NATO is helping keep the Kabul airport open to facilitate and coordinate evacuations.

Despite the Taliban moving into the last major city that remained under government control, U.S. officials said that its airport operations in Kabul would continue. A U.S. official added that American forces at the airport are properly secured and that despite the latest developments, there is no expected direct impact on U.S. operations there.

Earlier Sunday, both former Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, head of the High Council for National Reconciliation, issued a statement confirming that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani left the country and announced plans to form a new reconciliation council.

The new reconciliation council will be formed headed by Afghan politician and former Mujahideen leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and former President Hamid Karzai, according to the statement, “To prevent chaos and reduce the suffering of the people and to better manage the affairs related to peace and (a) peaceful transfer.”

“The council calls on the government security forces and the security forces of the Islamic Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) to resolutely curb the chaos and incitement of irresponsible and unrelated individuals while maintaining restraint,” the statement adds.”The council calls on the government security forces and the security forces of the Islamic Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) to resolutely curb the chaos and incitement of irresponsible and unrelated individuals while maintaining restraint,” the statement continued.

The Taliban reported earlier Sunday that its leaders were at the presidential palace to negotiate a transfer of power.

On ABC’s “This Week,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday that U.S. personnel are being relocated from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul to the airport “to ensure they can operate safely and securely,” but still maintain a core diplomatic presence there.

Senior Foreign Correspondent Ian Pannell said Sunday that he could hear American Chinook helicopters flying overheard and ferrying people out to the airport so that they could leave the country.

“There’s a real climate of fear and dread of what the future holds,” Pannell told “This Week” co-anchor Jonathan Karl.

Canada also announced Sunday that it was temporarily suspending operations at its embassy in Kabul.

“The situation in Afghanistan is rapidly evolving and poses serious challenges to our ability to ensure the safety and security of our mission,” according to a statement.

“As always, our priority in these situations is ensuring the safety and security of Canadian personnel. They are now safely on their way back to Canada,” the statement continued.

Additionally, the United Kingdom announced it reduced its diplomatic presence in Afghanistan, but the ambassador remains in Kabul along with UK staffers who continue to work to provide assistance to British nationals and to its Afghan staff.

The U.S. State Department announced Thursday it was reducing its staff levels at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul and the Pentagon began sending in troops to help facilitate those departures. The president on Saturday authorized an additional 1,000 U.S. troops for deployment to Afghanistan, raising the number of troops to 5,000 to assist with “orderly and safe drawdown.”

Early Sunday, the Taliban entered the outskirts of Kabul and fighters were seen gathering in the Kabul districts of Kampany and Barchi, a local reporter confirmed to ABC News.

They have assured residents that their lives are not in danger and a Taliban spokesman told ABC News that the Taliban leaders have ordered their troops not to take over Kabul by force for now but to “remain at the gates.”

President Ashraf Ghani’s official Twitter account reported that gunshots were heard in remote areas of Kabul province, but that “the situation is under control.”

The Taliban entered the outskirts of the city early Sunday and fighters were seen gathering in the Kabul districts of Kampany and Barchi, a local reporter confirmed to ABC News. Officials told the Associated Press that there were also Taliban fighters in the districts of Kalakan, Qarabagh and Paghman.

Russia is ready to cooperate with a “transitional government” that would include the Taliban and members of the current government, the Russian Embassy in Kabul reportedly said, according to the state news agency TASS. The embassy also said the resignation of Ghani was a condition for the Taliban not storming Kabul.

President Joe Biden, spending the weekend at Camp David, has received another briefing from his national security team on the latest developments in Afghanistan and will be briefed throughout the day, a White House official told ABC News.

Members of Congress were also receiving virtual briefings on Afghanistan from Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, according to congressional sources familiar with the matter.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul instructed all U.S. personnel to destroy items like documents and electronic devices to “reduce the amount of sensitive material on the property,” according to an internal notice obtained by ABC News.

“Please also include items with embassy or agency logos, Americans flags, or items which could be misused in propaganda efforts,” the notice said.

Blinken on “This Week” said the removal of American flags and sensitive items is standard operating procedure in any such situation.

This is a developing news story. Please check back for updates.

ABC News’ Justin Gomez, Patrick Reevell, Christine Theodorou, Trish Turner and Lauren King contributed to this report.

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