A Taliban propaganda video has been aired on Afghanistan’s state television showing fighters parading their arsenal of weapons and homemade bombs.
The chilling images show just how far Afghanistan has fallen in just two and a half weeks. The country is now in a state few could have imagined.
Certainly not the foreign secretary who is now playing catch up in the region.
Dominic Raab visited Afghan evacuees now staying in compounds in Qatar. But the tens of thousands of people who are now refugees are not the top priority for the foreign secretary.
Appearing in Doha with Qatar’s foreign minister, Mr Raab made his agenda clear. “Our immediate priority is to secure the safe passage of those remaining British nationals and also the Afghans who worked for the United Kingdom, and others who may be at the most risk,” he said.
Easier said than done. It’s understood hundreds of British nationals and thousands of Afghans who worked for the UK are still in Afghanistan – now in danger of brutal reprisal.
Sky News has spoken to one former government worker on the run with his family. Now in hiding, he has to tell his children it’s a game because they’re so frightened.
With no foreign troops now on the ground in Afghanistan, safe passage out of the country is at the discretion of the Taliban. And there’s no guarantee how long it will be before any agreement is reached.
“We want to live up to our responsibilities to those that haven’t made it out yet. Ideally, via Kabul airport but that’s got to be functional, that’s got to be safe. If not via third countries. We’re making sure logistics are in place,” Mr Raab told Sky News.
“It’s early days and we’re adjusting to the reality. It’s the only thing the international community can do.
“We’re not going to recognise the Taliban. We’re not going to bestow legitimacy on them in any way but we do want to be able to communicate and then set some early tests. And we’ll see and judge the Taliban on what it does.”
The person charged with the task of engaging with the Taliban is Sir Simon Gass. The senior intelligence figure is rarely seen but he was in attendance with Mr Raab on his visit to Qatar.
Sir Simon has been in Doha for weeks and certainly for now it seems any discussion with the Taliban remains closely guarded in terms of its content and is carried out behind closed doors.
It’s no surprise Qatar was the first stop on Mr Raab’s visit to the region. The foreign secretary described Qatar as a “lynchpin” in how the international community now deals with Afghanistan.
Qatar’s mediation between the Taliban and the Trump administration over troop withdrawal set the stage for it to be a key player for countries wanting dialogue with the Taliban. The British embassy has relocated to Doha from Kabul in the last few days.
Turkey is the only NATO country with an embassy still functioning in Kabul. Along with Qatar, they now have technical teams on the ground working to reopen Kabul airport.
One source has told Sky News that could be weeks away. Others though are more optimistic.
The new government should be established far sooner – the announcement expected in the coming days. The Taliban has already warned it’s unlikely any senior posts will be women.
And Mr Raab has stated emphatically “we won’t recognise the Taliban government. What we are willing to do is engage because we need to be able to convey messages”.