The Taliban toured Kabul International Airport on Tuesday, after the troop withdrawal that ended America’s longest war, leaders vowed to secure the country, reopen the airport and give an amnesty to its former rivals.
In a demonstration of control, leaders taliban they walked the runway escorted by members of the elite Badri unit. The commandos proudly posed for the press dressed in camouflage uniforms.
Getting the airport back online is one of the considerable challenges the Taliban faces in ruling a country of 38 million people that survived for two decades on billions of dollars in foreign aid.
“Afghanistan is free at last,” Hekmatula Wasiq, a Taliban leader, said on the tarmac at the airport. “The military and civil side (of the airport) are with us and under control. We look forward to announcing our government. Everything is peaceful. Everything is safe ”.
Wasiq urged people to return to work and reiterated the Taliban promise to offer a blanket amnesty. “The people must be patient,” he said. “Little by little we will return everything to normal. It will take time”.
A prominent member of the Taliban political bureau congratulated the Afghans on their “great victory” in achieving the “full independence of the country.” with the departure of the US forces.
Shahabuddin Delawar spoke to a hundred people, apparently all men, at an event in Kabul broadcast on state television. Delawar lashed out at the enemy – the US and NATO forces. and accused the West of spreading propaganda to undermine the Taliban.
“Soon you will see the progress” of the nation. The picture on state TV appeared with the caption “Celebration of Independence Day and the end of the US invasion of Afghanistan.”
Just hours earlier, the US Army completed its largest air evacuation of non-combatants in history.
As of Tuesday morning there were still signs of the chaos in recent days. In the terminal, suitcases and clothes were seen lying between piles of documents. There were razor wire to separate zones and overturned cars and parked vehicles blocked routes around the civilian airport, an indication of measures taken to protect against possible suicide attacks with vehicles.
Several vehicles with Taliban fighters were running along the only runway at Hamid Karzai International Airport, in the military zone north of the airport. Before dawn, heavily armed fighters walked through the hangars of the military zone among some of the seven CH-46 helicopters used by the State Department in its evacuations before disabling them.
The group’s spokesperson, Zabihula Muyahid, addressed the members of the Badri unit present. “I trust you are very cautious in dealing with the country,” he said. “Our country has suffered war and invasion and the people have no more tolerance.”
After their intervention, the combatants exclaimed: “God is the greatest!”
In another interview with Afghan state television, Mujahid spoke about resuming activity at the airport, which continues to be a crucial route for those who want to leave the country.
“Our technical team will check the technical and logistical needs of the airport,” he said. “If we can fix everything on our own, we won’t need any help. If technical or logistical help is needed to repair the destruction, then we will ask Qatar or Turkey for help. “
No details of what was destroyed
Marine Corps Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of the US Army Central Command, had earlier said that troops had “demilitarized” the system so that it could no longer be used. Authorities said troops had not flown equipment to ensure that the airport could be used to operate flights in the future. Additionally, McKenzie noted that US troops had disabled 27 Humvee trucks and 73 aircraft.
Dramatic scenes took place at the airport after the Taliban conquered Afghanistan in a blitzkrieg and seized Kabul on August 15. Thousands of Afghans surrounded the airport, some dying after desperately clinging to the side of a transport plane US Army C-17 taking off. Last week at least 169 Afghans and 13 US military personnel were killed in a suicide attack by the Islamic State group on an airport gate.
During the evacuation, US forces helped move about 120,000 US, Afghan and non-US citizens, according to the White House. Coalition forces also evacuated their citizens and more Afghans. But despite all who came out, The United States and other countries admitted that they had not evacuated everyone who wanted to leave.
But on Tuesday, after a night in which Taliban fighters fired into the air in triumph, new guards kept away the curious and those who somehow still they aspired to take a flight to leave.
“After 20 years we have defeated the Americans,” said Mohammad Islam, a Taliban guard at the airport, hailing from Logar province and holding a Kalashnikov rifle. “They have left and now our country is free.” “It is clear what we want,” he added. “We want sharia (Islamic law), peace and stability.”
Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special representative in Afghanistan who oversaw US talks with the Taliban, wrote on Twitter that “Afghans face a moment of decision and opportunity” after withdrawal.
“The future of the country is in your hands. They will choose their path with full sovereignty, ”he wrote. “This is the opportunity to end their war as well.”
But the Taliban are facing what could be a succession of major crises as they take control of the country. Most of Afghanistan’s billions of dollars in foreign currency are now frozen in the United States, putting pressure on a local currency to plummet. Banks have imposed controls on withdrawals for fear of a deposit run in the climate of uncertainty. Officials across the country say they have not received their wages for months.
Medical equipment remains in short supply and thousands of people who fled the Taliban advance live in dire conditions. In addition, a severe drought has reduced food production in the country and made imports even more important, while increasing the risk of famine.