The paras knew we wanted to get outside of the British evacuation camp where they’re protecting and processing thousands of people bound for the UK.
“Do you really want to go outside?” a somewhat incredulous looking soldier said to me.
“Obviously I’m not going to stop you, if you are sure.”
We’d been outside already, surrounded by soldiers, albeit a metre away from Taliban gunmen.
So we said yes, and that we wouldn’t get in their way.
He knocked on the massive iron gate, opening the viewing hatch, and we were beckoned forward as the side door swung open and we stepped outside.
I looked up. There were no soldiers. There were hundreds of people sitting quietly – and right in front of us stood a group of Taliban fighters.
They were doing security.
This place gets stranger and stranger by the day.
I heard my producer Dominique say to herself “Well, I didn’t expect that”, then said to me and our cameraman Toby: “Now wave at the Taliban.”
Mostly they ignored us, but one nodded. So we started filming.
It was calm outside the evacuation compound. The Taliban has that effect on people.
Among the crowd, British passport holders tried to get our attention, waving to us, but unable to come forward, knowing to stay where they were.
There were lots of British nationals and Europeans here as well, calmly waiting for their turn to get inside.
Many have taken days to get to the gates, and many have the correct paperwork.
It’s been a horrendous and dangerous journey for most.
One man from London bravely stood up and walked forward towards us. He is a British citizen and has been stuck here for two days.
“I’m trying to get in,” he told me. “I went to the Americans – they pushed me out, they kicked me out. I went to the Germans, they beat me up with sticks – they fired at us… you see this gas fired that makes you cry – tear gas.
“My one-year-old kid they fired with the gas, and everyone was crying right here like an hour ago, the tear gas in the kids, you see the kids there, like one year’s old kid, how can you do that?”
He’s upset with the American military’s heavy-handed efforts to keep crowds back.
“The Americans, they’re too rude,” he shouted. “The Americans, the Germans, they’re too rude. They beat up people with baseball bats. How can you beat someone with a baseball bat, man?”
While the British soldiers are trying to deal with large numbers of UK nationals and people cleared to come to Britain, they’re also taking in hundreds who should be at the American base, and not here.
These American evacuees have come to the wrong place. They say they were given the wrong address.
Getting them to the right place is a logistical nightmare for the British. Protecting them and the base from being overrun is hard, and moving these American evacuees is not actually their job.
The paras form a defensive square, trying to keep the crowds outside calm and urging people to stay seated. They need to move the America-bound evacuees from one base to another.
Looking around there are all ages here – all confused, tired, upset and desperate.
For now, at least, the British relief effort has to pause to let the American relief effort continue.
In single file they emerge from the British camp. Whole families attempting to escape the new Taliban Emirate of Afghanistan.
There are always so many children. I remember thinking that hopefully they are too young to know what on Earth is going on.
Children, too, among the crowds that are at the moment blocked from entry to the place that could be the gateway to a new life.
For the British, of course, it’s a return to their rightful home.
Minutes later, from the compound a helicopter lifts off, ferrying the refugees and nationals to the military airport. Their next step on the journey to freedom from the Taliban.
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