The one runway at the Kabul airport was the scene of a symbolic turnover of power on Tuesday. Soon after the last U.S. plane left the airport, ending America’s military presence in Afghanistan, Taliban leaders walked across the runway to demonstrate that they had taken control of the area.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said in a live-streamed video that the world “should have learned its lesson” and that the Taliban was enjoying its “moment of victory.” He told reporters that America could not “achieve its goal” with its military.
Mujahid also posted on Twitter that “the last American occupier” had left the airport at midnight, and Afghanistan “gained its full independence.” He is among the Taliban spokesmen who have not had social media accounts suspended or disabled, even as American President Donald Trump had all social media access canceled virtually simultaneously while he still held office.
Reuters reported that celebratory gunfire rang out throughout Kabul following the takeover of the airport. Taliban fighters were videoed looking through hangars at the airport before dawn on Tuesday. The videos showed the seven large helicopters used by the State Department in evacuation actions. The helicopters had reportedly been rendered inoperable.
The Taliban spokesman said that a technical team was checking the condition and needs of the airport. He indicated that if the Taliban needed help to bring the airport back online, they might ask for assistance from Qatar or Turkey.
The U.S. State Department announced that although American operations were suspended at the airport on August 31, it would continue operations from Doha, Qatar, to help U.S. citizens remain in Afghanistan. That message was echoed by Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Twitter.
Before leaving the Kabul airport, the military helped evacuate over 120,000 persons, including U.S. citizens, Afghan allies and Special Immigration Visa applicants, and others from other countries. State Department officials admitted that not everyone who wanted to evacuate got out before forces left the airport.