The UN has demanded that Afghanistan’s neighbors close its borders as the number of civilians fleeing the Taliban storms rises. Thousands of internally displaced people have arrived in Kabul, seeing the capital as their last safe haven.
Food shortages are “terrible,” said the World Food Program (WFP). It warns of a humanitarian catastrophe.
On Friday, the Taliban captured the country’s second-largest city, Kandahar, the last provincial capital to fall.
The southern city of 600,000 people was once the Taliban stronghold, and is strategically important because of its international airport, agricultural and industrial output.
The insurgents also took control of the nearby city of Lashkar Gah, and now control over a third of the Afghan provincial capitals.
Progress comes as US and other foreign troops withdraw after 20 years of military operations. More than 1,000 civilians were killed in Afghanistan alone last month, according to the UN.
Sahraa Karimi, an Afghan filmmaker in Kabul, told the BBC it was as if the world had turned its back on Afghanistan and she feared a return in “dark times”.
Life under the Taliban in the 1990s forced women to wear the very thick burka, education limited to girls over 10 and brutal punishments, including public executions.
“I’m in danger – [but] I no longer think of myself,” said Mrs Karimi. “I think of our country … I think of our generation: that we have done much to bring about these changes.
“I think of young girls … there are thousands of beautiful, young talented women in this country.”
Many of those seeking security in Kabul are sleeping on the streets. About 72,000 children are among those fleeing to the capital in recent days, according to Save the Children.
“We have no money to buy bread, or to get medicine for my child,” Asadullah, a 35-year-old street vendor who fled northern Kunduz province after the Taliban set fire to his home, told the BBC.
“All our homes and belongings have burned down, so we came to Kabul and prayed to God to help us,” added Asadullah, who is now with his family in Kabul.
Makeshift camps were established on the outskirts of the capital, while many others reported sleeping in abandoned camps.
Speaking to the BBC shortly before the fall of Kandahar, Pashtana Durrani, executive director of an education NGO working with Afghan girls, said she feared for her life because of her singing role as a lawyer for women’s education.
People are in faith about what happened in a single day. Five provincial capitals – including major cities – were hit by the Taliban on Thursday.
Thousands of people arrived in Kabul – but this is a number that changes after hours. They are left with very few things. These are people who have had houses and jobs, and shops and farms – and they just have to leave everything behind and try to run to safety.
Some of them took days, and these are dangerous journeys – along Taliban checkpoints and active front lines – to get to Kabul. This is the last place many of them believe they can go. They say, from where else are we running?
They are angry at the government for keeping it to themselves. The government says it will maintain them in mosques and give them relief – but it is not enough for anyone who enters.
There is also anger that the US and UK are evacuating their own citizens and leaving the Afghans to their fate.