The last US troops left the Hamid Karzai International Airport on Monday, just before the clock struck midnight local time. On Tuesday morning, Taliban fighters strolled through the airport they now controlled, littered with debris, posing for photos with the captured vehicles, aircraft and equipment.
Taliban leaders reviewed a “special forces” unit, equipped with weapons and gear captured from the US-trained Afghan army, on the Kabul runway.
“It is a historical day and a historical moment…. we liberated our country from a great power,” said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, adding that the past two decades should serve as “a big lesson for other invaders, a lesson for the world.”
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby acknowledged on Tuesday that a lot of US equipment with “a lethality component to it” has fallen into Taliban hands, but said it doesn’t pose a threat to the US or neighboring countries.
“These are not the kinds of things that the Taliban can make great strategic use out of,” Kirby told reporters.
The Taliban thought otherwise, however, showing off at least one newly acquired Black Hawk helicopter in the skies over Kandahar in a couple of videos. The second clip caused some confusion on social networks, as more than a few American commentators claimed the figure dangling from the helicopter was someone being executed.
The “Talib Times” account that posted the video said no such thing, however. On closer look, the man seemed to be a Taliban fighter joyriding on a rescue harness.
Meanwhile, in the southeastern city of Khost, a crowd of Taliban supporters held a mock “funeral” for the ousted occupiers, carrying coffins draped with US, NATO, British and French flags, as well as some banners of the defeated Islamic Republic of Afghanistan – now replaced by the white flag of the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate.
The US withdrawal turned into a mad scramble to evacuate just over 6,000 US citizens – along with tens of thousands of Afghan civilians – on August 14, when the Taliban took over Kabul without a fight and the Washington-backed government collapsed. It also turned tragic last week, when up to 200 Afghans and 13 US troops died at the entrance to the airport, in a suicide bombing claimed by the terrorist group ISIS-K.
The Pentagon has acknowledged that some US citizens could not reach the airport and were left behind. The State Department was tasked with negotiating their safe passage out of Afghanistan.
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