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Taliban meet with Afghan leaders at presidential palace to negotiate transfer of power

Afghan government officials and Taliban leaders on Sunday are holding talks at the presidential palace in Kabul, as the militant group pushes for an "unconditional surrender."

State of Play: Taliban forces surrounded the capital city on Sunday morning, hours after capturing the key eastern city of Jalalabad.

  • The Taliban said in a statement it had told fighters to not harm civilians and to "stay at the gates of Kabul" until "the transition takes place."
  • Matin Bek, chief of staff to President Ashraf Ghani, tweeted as the Taliban advanced on Afghanistan's capital, "Don’t panic! Kabul is safe!"

What else is happening: Helicopters are landing near the U.S. Embassy to conduct "rapid shuttle-run flights," per AP.

  • A U.S. Embassy official told Reuters on Sunday morning, "We have a small batch of people leaving now as we speak, a majority of the staff are ready to leave ... the embassy continues to function. The embassy continues to function."

What they're saying: The U.S. Embassy in Kabul tweeted that it had "conveyed to the Taliban reps" in Doha, Qatar, where on-and-off peace talks have been taking place, that any action that put American personnel "or our mission at risk" would be met with a "swift" and "strong" response from the U.S. Defense Department.

  • "Amb. Tracey Jacobson is in charge of a whole-of-government effort to process, transport, & relocate SIV applicants & other Afghan allies," the embassy added.

The big picture: President Biden on Saturday ordered 1,000 more troops to secure an airlift of U.S. Embassy personnel and Afghan allies as the Taliban closed in on the Afghan capital. Marines were assisting with airlift efforts.

Go deeper:

Editor's note: This article will be updated with relevant new developments as they occur.

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UN: 12 million women denied access to birth control due to pandemic

Nearly 12 million women lost access to family planning services including birth control and contraceptives because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United Nations Population Fund said in a report published Thursday.

Why it matters: The UNPF said the data from 115 low-and-middle-income countries shows the disruption for a total of 3.6 months caused by the pandemic over the past year led to 1.4 million unintended pregnancies.

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