Hours after the last foreign forces withdrew from Afghanistan, the Taliban leaders marched victoriously through Kabul airport, flanked by guards dressed in a special combat coffin investigating the destroyed U.S. military equipment.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid led a group of officials on the runway, a broad smile on his usually stoic face.
“Congratulations to Afghanistan … this victory belongs to all of us,” Mujahid told reporters. “America was defeated, they could not achieve their goals through military operations,” he said.
The Taliban’s “Badri 313” special forces unit took photos, waved American rifles and flew the group’s white flag.
Once one of the safest places in Afghanistan, the airport’s passenger terminal was left in chaos with empty bullet casings laying the floor near all the entrances.
The airport has been at the center of a chaotic evacuation since the Taliban took over the country on August 15. The US and its allies feared more than 100,000 people, both foreigners and Afghans, who feared retaliation from the new rulers.
The security of the airport is a major issue, and the Taliban have repeatedly stated that they will not accept any foreign military presence in Afghanistan. They are in talks with Turkey to take over the civilian operation of the airport. No agreement has been reached yet.
The U.S. military has shut down several aircraft and armored vehicles – as well as a high-tech rocket defense system – at the airport, a U.S. general said.
Central Command chief Kenneth McKenzie said 73 planes had been ‘demilitarized’ or rendered useless by US troops before completing the evacuation of the country under Taliban control.
He said the Pentagon, which had built up a force of nearly 6,000 troops to occupy and operate Kabul’s airport during the airlift, left behind about 70 MRAP armored tactical vehicles – which could cost up to $ 1 million each – which eliminated it before they left.
The US also left behind the C-RAM system anti-missile, artillery and mortar used to protect the airport from rocket attacks.
The system on Monday repelled a barrage of five Islamic State rockets in Khorasan province, ISKP (ISIS-K), an ISIL subsidiary, in Afghanistan.