Deh Sabz district:
After America’s longest war, Taliban commander Mullah Hasnain considers all that was left of what made up the last CIA base: demolished buildings, destroyed vehicles and piles of ammunition.
“We’ll let them go peacefully and see what they left behind,” said Hasnain, a leader of the Taliban’s elite Badri 313 unit.
Hasnain, a thick-bearded man dressed in traditional brown robes with a waistcoat and black turban, surveyed the charred ruins of the sprawling complex on the outskirts of the Afghan capital, Kabul.
“Before they left, they destroyed everything,” he told reporters who were shown the site, flanked by Taliban guards rocking American M-16 rifles and outfitted with the latest military equipment.
The complex was once one of the safest sites in Afghanistan, located on a dusty plain near the former US Eagle Base camp and close to the Kabul airport.
After a two-week blitz in Afghanistan, the Taliban capped off their extraordinary victory by invading Kabul on August 15.
It would be another two weeks before the last American troops flew out, ending their 20-year war in the country.
As the CIA destroyed their base, from which they trained Afghan intelligence, the Taliban watched closely, the commander said.
“We were there for nine or ten days,” said Hasnain, 35, in plain English. “There were a lot of explosions.”
“We didn’t stop them, not even the last convoy going by road to the airport. We didn’t attack them because we followed the orders of our top officials.”
Hasnain pointed to a crater that he said had been “an ammunition warehouse.” Only a pile of rubble and twisted metal remains.
The US detonated the ammunition depot on August 27, with the massive explosion reverberating through Kabul, sparking terror.
The day before, Islamic State-Khorasan, the Afghan branch of the jihadist franchise and rivals to the Taliban, had attacked crowds at the airport trying to flee.
They killed more than 100 Afghan civilians and 13 American troops.
Hasnain pointed to another area, where dozens of crates containing hundreds of missiles were piled up. “Please don’t move the grenades,” he told reporters.
Piles of unused ammunition were scattered around. “We can still shoot them,” he said.
One building remained intact, a large games room with billiards, table football, darts and plush velvet armchairs. The sign was still dangling outside — “The Snooker Club”.
He looked out over a parking lot, filled with the burnt wreckage of dozens of vehicles.
“We need everything for the country, including weapons – we don’t have enough to guarantee security,” he said.
“Now we have to buy them from other countries,” he added, without specifying which ones.
The US said it left as little military equipment as possible for the Taliban, who for years carried out bloody attacks on foreign troops, Afghan troops and the civilian population.
At the nearby airport, US forces disabled or destroyed dozens of planes and armored vehicles, as well as a high-tech defense system used to stop missile attacks.
Hasnain was angry at the deliberate destruction and saw the burnt wreckage as a symbol of America’s two-decade residence.
“The US came to Afghanistan and said they would rebuild the country,” he said. “This is their real face, they left nothing behind.”
The Taliban nevertheless seized a large arsenal of weapons elsewhere, as well as from the former US-backed government military, including fleets of armored vehicles.
Ankle-length in the ashes of the burned base, Hasnain offered a message of reconciliation, following in the footsteps of his Taliban commanders.
“We didn’t go to war to kill Americans,” he said. “We did it to liberate the country and restore Sharia law.”
But many in Afghanistan remember the harsh regime of 1996-2001, when the Taliban were in power earlier, all too well.
Now that the hardline Islamists are back in charge, they are holding back judgment to see if their promise of a more moderate rule will materialize.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NewsMadura staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)