Taliban Fighters Pose for Photoshoots at 'Demilitarized' US Equipment Left in Afghanistan
19:27 GMT 31.08.2021 (Updated: 13:23 GMT 06.08.2022)
© REUTERS / TALIBAN HANDOUTTaliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid speaks to Badri 313 military unit at Kabul's airport, Afghanistan August 31, 2021 in this still image obtained from a handout video. Taliban/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.
The departing American troops left an abundance of military hardware and garments at the Kabul airport. Responding to the criticism regarding the abandoned equipment, US General Kenneth McKenzie assured that the US troops had "demilitarized" the weapons.
Soon after the last American soldier left Afghanistan on a C-17 cargo plane, the Taliban fighters moved into the Kabul airport, where they found heaps of military clothes, firearms, helicopters and even strike jets left behind by US troops. Soon photos emerged showing the militants posing with the military hardware and inside a cockpit of a cargo plane, which belonged to the Afghan air force.
The fighters of the Taliban's special forces unit, called Badri, took it even further, "getting into the skin" of their former adversaries by putting on US military fatigues and replacing their trusted Kalashnikovs with American firearms to pose for a photo op while waving the Taliban's white flag.
Roughly at the same time, a Taliban spokesman delivered a speech at the airport commenting on the US troops' departure: "Congratulations to Afghanistan [...] this victory belongs to us all. [The defeat of the US is a] big lesson for other invaders and for our future generation".
The abandoning of tons of military hardware in the US has been widely criticised by the opponents of the current administration, but US General Kenneth F. McKenzie assured that all equipment had been "demilitarized", preventing its further use by the militants. He specified that 27 Humvees, 70 mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles and 73 aircraft had been rigged not to ever fly again.
Recently posted videos from Afghanistan, however, cast doubt on McKenzie's words, as the Taliban have been spotted riding said Humvees and allegedly flew at least one Black Hawk helicopter for patrolling purposes. The Taliban previously seized some of the US equipment (which had ben provided to the Afghan military) in other cities the group had captured prior to Kabul.
The militants drove into the capital on 15 August without a fight, with NATO forces maintaining control of the Kabul airport to carry out evacuations of civilians. That process was ended on 30 August despite some Americans and Brits still remaining in the country. On the night between the 30 and 31 August, the last plane carrying American soldiers departed from the airport.