Afghanistan: Tugendhat says ‘this is what defeat looks like’
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Coffins draped with US, UK and French flags were paraded through the south-eastern city of Khost while crowds brandished white Taliban banners in the Islamists’ southern stronghold of Kandahar. The group’s leaders put on a show of strength hours after taking control of the airport in Kabul. Taliban special forces, clad in captured US military uniforms and toting Nato assault rifles, patrolled around Hamid Karzai International. A spokesman said: “The last 20 years should serve as a big lesson for other invaders [and] a lesson for the world.”
Celebrating fighters posed alongside seven abandoned CH-46 helicopters that had been used by US forces in evacuations. Giant C-130 transport planes were left behind too. Meanwhile, terrified Afghans yesterday sold all their possessions including fridges and rugs to raise money to flee the country – or just to buy food as prices soared.
Huge queues formed at banks as families tried to withdraw money. As fears of a Taliban crackdown grew in the aftermath of the West pulling out, some Afghans have gone into hiding, destroying the SIM cards from their phones and deleting photos, videos and their social media accounts to avoid executions.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said: “We have achieved our independence and we were able to force the Americans to leave after 20 years of jihad.
“It is a historical day. We are proud of these moments, that we liberated our country from a great power. A government will soon be announced, all government offices will reopen, the banks and the economy will start moving. We want our residents to have no concern. Afghanistan is our common home, we will stay here, we should not escape.”
Hours later, heavily armed Taliban flanked a TV newsreader as he told viewers to “not be afraid”.
Taliban gunmen had fired into the air as the last US troops left Kabul on Monday night before leaders of the militant group marked their victory by walking across the airport’s runway, saying: “The world should have learned its lesson.”
Mr Muhajid said: “We want to have good relations with the US and the world.” Addressing Badri special force troops in US body armour, he added: “Be careful in how you deal with your people. This nation has suffered a lot. The Afghan people deserve to be treated with love and sympathy.
“We are their servants. We have not imposed ourselves on them.”
But Gulafroz Ebtekar, one of Afghanistan’s top women police officers, said she is in hiding in Kabul after she was beaten by the Taliban. She was deputy head of criminal investigations and a well-known face in the media.
Ebtekar was singled out by the Taliban as a target at the gates outside the airport, where she spent five nights attempting to secure a place on an evacuation flight.
She said: “I spent five nights at the gates of Kabul airport without water or bread, in a rain of bullets and surrounded by the Taliban.
“I witnessed the death of children and women. I sent messages to the embassies of many countries to save myself and my family, but all to no avail.”
While attempting to escape at the airport Ebtekar was beaten by Taliban guards. She said:“All their words were accompanied by blows.
“When I was hit again, I could not get up, I could not say a word. The Taliban acted like this: first they hit, then allowed you to move. You take one or two steps, and pay for it. They beat me with fists, boots, weapons and even stones.”
A 22-year-old woman said: “The Taliban were beating women with sticks. It’s the first time I’ve seen something like that and it really frightened me.”
While a worker trapped in Herat, Afghanistan’s third-largest city, said: “I’m like a prisoner. Every day, I hear different stories about the Taliban that they use violence. I heard that a number of Talibs…cut the hands off two people who had stolen something..”
Sayed, living in Herat, said victorious Taliban gunmen “continued searching door to door for people in spite of a general amnesty announced by the group”. The student added: “This really worried many people. All the gains that we made over 20 years are now over.
“I’m thinking of find a way out of Afghanistan to build a future for myself because I do not think this will be possible in Afghanistan.”
Hundreds of US and UK citizens were left behind when the last evacuation plane took off. Many more fear Taliban death squads and beatings after helping Western forces in the two-decade war.
Taliban commander Maulawi Hafiz Mohibullah Muktaz said: “Never in our wildest dreams could we have believed we could beat a superpower like America.”
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