The Taliban‘s elite forces were seen falling off the back of a truck at Kabul airport today as they celebrated with a victory parade around the runway in looted US military gear.
The jubilant fighters packed into the back of the pick-up, with a few sitting and standing precariously on the open tailgate at the rear of the vehicle.
Moments later two ‘elite’ Badri 313 fighters, along with a journalist, tumbled off the back of the truck, landing flat on their backsides in a cloud of black exhaust smoke.
Despite the comical scene, it’s the Taliban who appear to have had the last laugh as they jaunt around with US-made guns, in US-made armoured cars after vanquishing the most well-funded army in the world after a 20-year war.
The jubilant fighters packed into the back of the pick-up, with a few sitting and standing precariously on the open tailgate at the rear of the vehicle
Moments later two of ‘elite’ Badri 313 fighters, along with a journalist, tumbled off the back of the truck, landing flat on their backsides in a cloud of black exhaust smoke
Badri 313 units post for the cameras at Kabul airport today, carrying American-made rifles and wearing US military gear
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid addressed the media from the tarmac this morning – posing in front of Taliban special forces units who had seized control of the airstrip just hours earlier.
Elsewhere, Taliban fighters posed with captured aircraft, helicopters, and vehicles.
‘Congratulations to Afghanistan… this victory belongs to us all,’ Mujahid said, calling the day a ‘big lesson for other invaders and for our future generation.’ ‘It is an historical day and an historical moment. We are proud of these moments, that we liberated our country from a great power,’ he added.
Overnight, fireworks and celebratory gunfire had lit up the night sky over the Afghan capital after it emerged the last US evacuation flight had departed, putting an end to America’s longest war.
But hundreds of American and British citizens were left behind, along with thousands of Afghans who provided assistance to their troops on the promise of sanctuary that was ultimately broken. Many now fear for their lives.
Mujahid insisted today that Taliban security forces will be ‘pleasant and nice’, despite reports already emerging of summary executions and persecution against women reminiscent of the Taliban of old.
Afghanistan is also facing economic collapse as aid organisations cut off funding and foreign banks withhold reserves, while UN agencies warn that food could start running out within a month.
‘There’s a lot of heartbreak associated with this departure,’ General Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, said on Monday night as a night-vision image of Major General Chris Donahue – the last American troop to leave the country – was released.
‘We did not get everybody out that we wanted to get out. But I think if we’d stayed another 10 days, we wouldn’t have gotten everybody out,’ he insisted.
All eyes will now turn to how the Taliban handles its first few days with sole authority over the country, with a sharp focus on whether it will allow other foreigners and Afghans to leave.
Taliban Badri special force fighters pose with American-made weapons under their white flag at Kabul airport today
Taliban Badri special force fighters take a position at the airport in Kabul after taking over security from US forces
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid (centre right) speaks to journalists at Kabul airport in front of a line of Badri 313 ‘special forces’ troops armed with US weapons, and in front of a captured American C-130 plane
Taliban ‘special forces’ soldiers display their newly-captured weapons and gear during a press conference at Kabul airport
Reports suggest many are already fleeing through Pakistan to the east and Iran to the west. The US and UK are still working on arrangements to allow people to be evacuated from these neighbouring countries.
While the international community appears to have accepted the reality of Taliban rule, the UK and US remain willing to take on Islamic State, also known as Daesh.
British forces are prepared to launch air strikes to target so-called Islamic State terrorists in Afghanistan, the head of the RAF indicated as the US-led military presence in the country came to an end.
The group’s Afghan offshoot, Isis-K, carried out the bloody attack on Kabul airport in the final days of the evacuation effort which killed two Britons and the child of a British national, along with 13 US service personnel and scores of Afghans.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the global coalition against the terrorist group was ready ‘to combat Daesh networks by all means available, wherever they operate’.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston indicated the RAF could strike Isis-K targets in Afghanistan.
‘Ultimately what this boils down to is that we’ve got to be able to play a global role in the global coalition to defeat Daesh, whether it’s strike, or whether it’s moving troops or equipment into a particular country, at scale and at speed,’ he told the Daily Telegraph.
‘If there’s an opportunity for us to contribute I am in no doubt that we will be ready to – that will be anywhere where violent extremism raises its head, and is a direct or indirect threat to the UK and our allies.
‘Afghanistan is probably one of the most inaccessible parts of the world, and we’re able to operate there.’
The attack on Kabul airport on Thursday has led to a transatlantic blame game, with US sources indicating the gate that was attacked was kept open to facilitate the British evacuation.
According to leaked Pentagon notes obtained by Politico, Read Admiral Peter Vasely, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan, had wanted to close Abbey Gate but it was kept open to allow UK evacuees into the airport.
Taliban ‘special forces’ troops – known as Badri 313 units – stand guard at Kabul airport on Tuesday morning after retaking it from American forces overnight
A Taliban fighter poses in the cockpit of a C-130 Hercules transport plane that was left behind during the evacuation
Taliban fighters are pictured in the cargo bay of an American transport plane abandoned at Kabul airport
A Taliban fighter takes a picture of a damaged MD 530 helicopter that was abandoned at Kabul airport by retreating troops
A Russian Mi-17 helicopter is pictured alongside Taliban fighters after it was seized from retreating western troops
The Ministry of Defence said that throughout the operation at the airport ‘we have worked closely with the US to ensure the safe evacuation of thousands of people’.
The final US troops left Kabul on a flight shortly before midnight local time on Monday, meeting President Biden’s commitment to withdraw ahead of the deadline.
The Taliban proclaimed ‘full independence’ for Afghanistan after the US withdrawal.
The departure of American troops means the conflict ends with the Taliban back in power and Afghans deeply uncertain of what the future holds.
In a statement, Biden said the world would be watching how the Taliban behaved.
‘The Taliban has made commitments on safe passage and the world will hold them to their commitments,’ he said, adding that negotiations continued to keep the airport open and ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid.
He added that he would address the nation on Tuesday and that his military chiefs had agreed the evacuation should not be extended beyond the deadline.
‘Their view was that ending our military mission was the best way to protect the lives of our troops, and secure the prospects of civilian departures for those who want to leave Afghanistan in the weeks and months ahead,’ he said.
Republicans were quick to accuse Biden of abandoning Americans in the city, less than two weeks after he promised to get them all out.
Planes, helicopters and vehicles left behind by western forces have now fallen into the hands of the Taliban
A transport plane with the propeller removed is examined by Islamist fighters at Kabul airport this morning
An A-29 attack plane is surrounded by trash left behind by western forces as they retreated from Kabul airport
At the same time, the nature of the departure provoked a wave of anger from veterans of the war, many of whom were involved in frantic efforts to rescue Afghan comrades, who were waiting for their Special Immigrant Visas (SIV).
‘Nothing feels good or right about this ignominious retreat leaving American citizens, SIVers and families, and others – including military working dogs – behind,’ Ronald J Moeller, a retired CIA paramilitary operations officer who deployed to Afghanistan 12 times, told DailyMail.com.
‘Zero integrity from anyone in DC or Tampa.
‘Complete capitulation to a faulty narrative based on false assumptions and lots of wishful thinking.’
The dangers were apparent in a final week when the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the suicide attack on the airport on behalf of its Afghan affiliate ISIS-K and terrorism experts said Al Qaeda retained a dangerous presence in the country.
The Taliban quickly declared victory after the last U.S. plane departed.
‘American soldiers left the airport, and our nation got its full independence,’ said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.