Afghanistan: Kabul’s empty airport | International

More information

The Taliban picks up a flashlight from the hangar floor. Show the journalist. “See? It’s broken. It’s a flashlight that doesn’t cost more than two dollars. And they broke it before they left. The entire airport is destroyed”, he explains, pointing to the rest of the airfield. And he adds: “They just left garbage.”

The day after the last US soldier left Afghanistan, the Taliban allowed the press to pass through the airport to see the facilities and incidentally denounced that, in their withdrawal, the US Army had carried out the land tactic. razed, deactivating everything. The Taliban with the flashlight talks about this in a huge hangar, in which there are several wrecked planes, parked among hundreds of soldiers’ helmets, backpacks, cartridges and bulletproof vests left behind by the US military. “Many of these things could have been used by the Afghan people,” he complains.

On the runways, journalists found Afghan Air Force helicopters that were also disabled or private vehicles used by the military and left to their own devices. Many of them were not even approached by the Taliban — who did not give journalists permission to approach, claiming they could hide lag bombs that could explode when the engine was started.

The international community has urged the Taliban to open Kabul’s airport as quickly as possible so that thousands or tens of thousands of people who now believe their lives are in danger can leave the country. But judging by the state of the airport — and Taliban complaints — the airfield will not be able to operate again overnight.

Both Turkey and Qatar are negotiating with extremists to manage the airfield. Some of the civilian experts in charge of managing this complex infrastructure have fled and the Taliban do not have the qualified personnel to operate it. Furthermore, Islamists claim that essential elements such as the control tower do not work, as the US military disabled it before leaving. On the outside it looks intact, with no traces of bombing or gunfire. Inside, according to the Taliban, the operating system was destroyed.

Several Taliban cycle on the runway at Hamid Karzai International Airport the morning after the United States officially leaves the country.
Several Taliban cycle on the runway at Hamid Karzai International Airport the morning after the United States officially leaves the country.Juan Carlos / Juan Carlos

Entering the airport through the North Gate, which until the last moment was controlled by the Americans, now means crossing several Taliban checkpoints. As a result, a movement through the interior of the airfield is a succession of damaged military vehicles, when not burned. The airport, however, is silent and empty. Sometimes you see Taliban going back and forth or killing time at a checkpoint.

Through the main door, the so-called Abbey, the one that at the time served to access the corridors and lobby of commercial airlines, the spectacle is equally bleak. This is the door through which a terrorist committed suicide on Thursday, 27, killing dozens of people.

Ghostly

Now, going in there is something spooky. Not just because of the silence that floats throughout the immense installation. When you reach what until a month ago were the departure gates, you can see the floor full of suitcases, clothes and bags belonging to people who had to leave urgently. On the slopes there are also hundreds of suitcases and bags that testify that those who fled the Taliban did so with what they were wearing.

Before accessing the tracks, there are overturned military cars and vans, forming a barricade. It is proof that the US military feared a frontal attack by the Taliban from the airport’s main gate. Inside the runways are commercial jets from Afghan commercial airline Ariana Airlines, apparently in good use. Also there, in the middle of a runway, is the stepladder that was immortalized in the early days of chaos at Kabul airport, when it was filled with people struggling to access a plane leaving Kabul. Now, in the middle of the track, it’s full of clothes and garbage.

Meanwhile, a technical team from Qatar is already operating at the Afghan airport, reported the Al Jazeera network on Thursday, citing an official source related to civil aviation. At the moment, this team is in charge of calibrating the extent to which the aerodrome facilities are damaged. The first domestic flights start this Friday and the international ones “will take time”, adds the same source.

On the other hand, the US authorities confirmed the poor state of the airport facilities, without specifying damage or deterioration of basic areas for their operation, such as air traffic control towers, he informs Maria Antonia Sánchez-Vallejo, from New York.

However, a pilot contacted by Agence France Presse confirms the degradation of the passenger terminal, devastated by the traffic of thousands of people since August 14, and points out that the departure lounges, control towers and different runways would be damaged, but still operational .

sign up on here to receive EL PAÍS Brasil’s daily newsletter: reports, analyses, exclusive interviews and the main information of the day in your e-mail, from Monday to Friday. sign up also to receive our weekly newsletter on Saturdays, with highlights of coverage for the week.