Garbage bins overflowing with destroyed equipment. Smashed computer parts scattered across the ground. 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 the chaos as Americans rushed to evacuate the U.S. Embassy in Kabul early last week as the Taliban swept into the city.
The takeover and the hurried U.S. departure made for a defining moment, capping nearly 20 years of war. But few images have emerged showing how the personnel inside the diplomatic compound quickly mobilized to leave — and leave behind as little as possible that might be of use to the Taliban.
One contractor who filmed the events as they unfolded compared it to the fall of Saigon. The contractor asked not to be identified for fear of losing his job. Many of the posts by contractors were later 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 asked for anonymity because he could lose his security clearance for talking to the news media, said the equipment was destroyed so the Taliban couldn’t use it.
Similarly, several armored vehicles were left behind in the embassy compound, which was verified by matching up multiple videos from contractors with satellite imagery. The vehicles were left inoperable, according to the contractor.
“Obviously, we don’t want to see any weapons or systems to fall into the hands of people that would use them in such a way to harm our interests or those of partners and allies,” John F. Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, said on Monday. “But I don’t have any policy solutions for you today about how we would or could address that going forward.”
It is unclear whether Taliban fighters have entered the embassy compound.