A month of Taliban rule: Signs of US occupation at Kabul airport
A month after Taliban takeover, signs of 20-year occupation still visible, including evidence of a humiliating exit by US.
A Taliban fighter shows a copy of the book, Not a Good Day to Die, found inside a deserted US military camp at the airport in Kabul. [Karim Sahib/AFP]
16 Sep 2021
A well-thumbed copy of Not a Good Day to Die, which tells how American forces nearly came undone fighting in Afghanistan in the early stages of the war, lies on a bed in a deserted United States barrack room at Kabul airport.
On a table next to it are two water bottles, a couple of empty bullet casings and a smoke grenade. A bottle of Tabasco hot sauce – a United States military staple – sits on another.
In a separate room, an overwhelming smell of rotting food pervades as a Taliban fighter armed with an M16 rifle takes pictures on his mobile phone.
A month after the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, signs of the 20-year US-led occupation are still visible at Kabul’s airport, including clear evidence of Washington’s humiliating exit.
US medical kits, vests, shoes, mattresses, toilet paper, documents and other items are scattered about the military quarters of the airport, not yet disposed of by the new rulers of the devastated country.
“The Taliban takeover was unimaginable … but the US exit was truly unthinkable,” said an Afghan security guard who had a front-row seat of the withdrawal operation from the civilian side of the airport.
The panic and confusion as the Taliban entered the capital was plain to see, he said.
“It was the first time I saw US soldiers like this.”
The state of what has been left behind bears testimony to the panicked exit.
In a field clinic at the US camp, next to a small fire station, first aid kits are hung on sandbags a few metres from an outdoor gym, a volleyball court and a meeting room with red chairs that resembles an indoor cinema.
A strong smell of disinfectant rises from the rooms, where boxes of medical equipment are still untouched and folding beds covered in grey sheets are left open.
In part of the military side of the airport this week, dozens of damaged planes and vehicles were cordoned off by Taliban barricades made of anything from umbrellas to folding metal chairs.
Abandoned Afghan military uniforms litter the floors of hangars filled with bullet-riddled helicopters.
Standing next to a small plane with no doors, a Taliban fighter looks at shattered windows and says loudly with a smile: “Boom, boom, boom.”
A folder with a US army insignia is seen next to an ammunition box in a room inside a deserted US military camp at the airport in Kabul. [Karim Sahib/AFP]
Belongings of US soliders are pictured inside the deserted US military camp at the airport. Taliban fighters took Kabul on August 15 after a lightning offensive launched in May as the US and NATO began their final withdrawal. [Karim Sahib/AFP]
A Taliban fighter inspects a room inside the deserted US military camp at the airport. Washington, which had planned an orderly evacuation of Afghans who had helped foreign forces during the 20-year occupation, suddenly had to airlift them out in a hurry. [Karim Sahib/AFP]
An operation room of the hospital inside the deserted US military camp. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken insisted on Monday the Biden administration had prepared for worst-case scenarios in Afghanistan, as irate lawmakers accused the White House of presiding over a bungled exit. [Karim Sahib/AFP]
Stretchers lean against a wall at the entrance of an emergency room of the hospital inside the deserted military camp. [Karim Sahib/AFP]
An armoured vehicle near an Afghan Air Force helicopter parked inside the deserted US camp at the airport in Kabul. [Karim Sahib/AFP]
A damaged fire truck, left, next to a Humvee inside a deserted US military camp at the airport in Kabul. [Karim Sahib/AFP]