UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday said that no country should recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan, coming after the group appeared to take over Kabul and most of the country’s provincial capitals.
A spokesman for the Taliban wrote online that the group took over the presidential palace in Kabul. Video footage and photos showed Taliban members sitting in the president’s office while holding AK-47s just hours after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.
Speaking in a news conference, Johnson said that no country should bilaterally recognize the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan.
“We don’t want anybody bilaterally recognizing the Taliban,” he said. “We want a united position amongst all the like-minded as far as we can get one,” Johnson added.
President Joe Biden, meanwhile, has been at a retreat in Camp David and hasn’t yet issued a statement on the Taliban takeover.
With the Taliban gaining control of the country, there are fears that it would harbor other terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS, allowing them to develop plots to carry out terrorist attacks elsewhere in the world.
Afghan government forces, meanwhile, turned over Bagram airbase—formerly the largest U.S. base in the country—to the Taliban, according to district chief Darwaish Raufi in a comment to The Associated Press over the weekend. Around 5,000 prisoners held by both the Taliban and ISIS at the airbase were released, AP noted.
Neither the UK nor the United States, Johnson added Sunday, wants to see Afghanistan again become a “breeding ground for terror.” Johnson, however, didn’t say whether the UK would consider any punitive actions against the Taliban.
“Our priority is to make sure we deliver on our obligations to UK nationals, to all those who have helped the British effort in Afghanistan over 20 years, and to get them out as fast as we can,” he said.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said no one wants Afghanistan to become a “breeding ground for terror”, as the Taliban enters capital Kabul.
Around the same time, a main spokesman for the Taliban claimed on Twitter that the group entered Kabul due to crime concerns.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said earlier in Washington that the embassy was being moved to the airport and has a list of people to get out of harm’s way. Blinken also issued a warning to the Taliban, saying the group would face a harsh response if it attacked the embassy or American staff or troops.
In a bulletin sent out on Sunday, the U.S. Department of State said that “the security situation in Kabul is changing quickly including at the airport.”
“There are reports of the airport taking fire; therefore we are instructing U.S. citizens to shelter in place,” the agency wrote, adding, “Do not call the U.S. Embassy in Kabul for details or updates about the flight.”
Many Afghans fear the Taliban will return to past harsh practices in their imposition of sharia, or Islamic religious law. During their 1996 to 2001 rule, women could not work and punishments such as stoning, whipping, and hanging were administered.
Reuters contributed to this report.