Taliban declares ‘war is over’ in Afghanistan as US-led forces exit Kabul.

The Taliban has declared the war in Afghanistan is over after insurgents took control of the presidential palace in Kabul as US-led forces departed and Western nations scrambled to evacuate their citizens.

Spokesman Mohammad Naeem said in interviews with Al Jazeera TV the Taliban did not want to live in isolation. He said the group respected women’s and minorities’ rights and freedom of expression within Sharia law.

“Today is a great day for the Afghan people and the mujahideen. They have witnessed the fruits of their efforts and their sacrifices for 20 years,” he said. “Thanks to God, the war is over in the country.”

Naeem said the Taliban wanted to have peaceful relations with foreign countries. “We ask all countries and entities to sit with us to settle any issues”, he said.

The comments came hours after several key events on Sunday, including Taliban insurgents entering, President Ashraf Ghani leaving Afghanistan saying he wanted to avoid bloodshed and America abandoning its embassy in panic. The swift arrival brings the Islamist militants close to taking over the country two decades after they were overthrown by a US-led invasion.

By Monday morning a US official said the majority of Western diplomatic staff had left Kabul and that the airport perimeter had been secured.

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