After America’s longest war, Taliban commander Mullah Hasnain thought what was left was part of the CIA’s last stronghold – collapsed buildings, wrecked vehicles and piles of ammunition.
“We let them go peacefully, and see what they have left behind,” said Hasnain, a leader of the Taliban’s elite Badri 313 unit.
Hasnain, a thick-bearded man dressed in traditional brown clothing with a waist and black turban, surveyed the burnt ruins of a vast complex on the outskirts of the Afghan capital, Kabul.
“Before leaving, they destroyed everything,” he told reporters, showing the area, where Taliban guards are armed with American M-16 rifles and equipped with modern military kits.
The complex was once one of the safest places in Afghanistan, located on a dusty field near the former US Eagle base camp and near Kabul airport.
After two weeks of fighting in Afghanistan, the Taliban narrowed their extraordinary victory with a victory in Kabul on August 15.
It will take two more weeks for the final US troops to leave, ending their 20-year war in the country.
‘Lots of Explosions’
The commander said that when the CIA destroyed his base, from where he trained Afghanistan’s intelligence agencies, the Taliban watched closely.
“We were there for nine or 10 days,” said Hasnain, 35, in plain English. “There were a lot of explosions.”
“We did not stop them, not even the last convoy that reached the airport by road. We did not attack them, because we obeyed the orders of our superiors.”
Hasnain pointed to a pit and said it was an “ammunition depot.” Only a pile of debris and broken metal remains.
The United States blew up an arms dump on August 27, triggering a massive explosion and terror throughout Kabul.
The day before, Islamic State-Khorasan, a branch of Afghanistan’s jihadist franchise and a rival of the Taliban, attacked a crowd at the airport trying to flee.
They killed more than 100 Afghan civilians and 13 American soldiers.
Hasnain pointed to another area, where there were dozens of crates filled with hundreds of rockets. “Please don’t move the grenade,” he told reporters.
Heaps of unused ammunition are scattered all around. “We can still shoot with them,” he said.
What was left was a building, a large playroom with billiards, table football, darts and soft velvet chairs. Its sign is still hanging out – “The Snooker Club”
He looked out over a parking lot, packed with the incinerated wrecks of scores of vehicles.
“We need everything for the country, including weapons – we don’t have enough to ensure security,” he said.
“Now we have to buy them from other countries,” he added, declining to specify which ones.
The United States has said it has provided minimal military equipment to the Taliban, which has carried out years of deadly attacks on foreign troops, Afghan troops and civilians.
At a nearby airport, U.S. troops deactivated or destroyed several aircraft and armored vehicles, as well as a high-tech defense system used to prevent rocket attacks.
Hasnain was outraged by the deliberate devastation, seeing the burnt debris as a symbol of America’s two decades of existence.
He said the United States had come to Afghanistan saying it would rebuild the country. “This is their real face. They left nothing.”
Despite this, the Taliban seized a large cache of weapons elsewhere, as well as from a former US-backed government force, including a fleet of armored vehicles.
Deep in the ashes of the burnt base, Hasnain echoed the message of peace to his top Taliban officials.
“We did not fight to kill the Americans,” he said. We did this to liberate the country and restore Sharia.
But many in Afghanistan remember the harsh rule of 1996-2001 when the Taliban were already in very good shape.