The garbage cans are overflowing with destroyed material. Broken computer parts strewn on the floor. Diplomatic workers burning documents.
Videos and photos taken by several U.S. government contractors and posted to social media, and verified and analyzed by The New York Times, reveal chaos as Americans rushed to evacuate the U.S. embassy in Kabul early last week as the Taliban invaded the city.
The takeover and hasty departure of the United States marked a turning point, ending nearly 20 years of war. But few images emerged showing how staff inside the diplomatic complex quickly mobilized to leave – and leave as little as possible that could be of use to the Taliban.
One entrepreneur who filmed the events as they unfolded compared it to the fall of Saigon. The entrepreneur asked not to be identified for fear of losing his job. Many messages from subcontractors were subsequently deleted.
A weapon system intended to protect the U.S. Embassy from incoming rockets, artillery and mortars known as C-RAM is seen burning in one of the videos. Another contractor, who requested anonymity because he risked losing his security clearance for speaking to the media, said the equipment was destroyed so the Taliban could not use it.
Likewise, several armored vehicles were left in the embassy compound, which was verified by matching several videos of contractors with satellite images. The vehicles remained unusable, according to the contractor.
“Obviously, we don’t want to see weapons or systems fall into the hands of people who use them in a way that harms our interests or those of partners and allies,” John F. Kirby, spokesperson for the Pentagon, says Monday. “But I have no political solutions for you today on how we might or might solve this problem in the future.”
It is not known if Taliban fighters entered the embassy compound.