A Black Hawk helicopter was circling the Taliban’s spiritual center in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday while fighters on board captured Humayun as Islamists paraded his looted US military hardware.
The lap of the Taliban’s victory, after celebrating the final withdrawal of US troops, came after a shocking two-week occupation by the group that limited the 20-year-old insurgency.
On the highway to Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second-largest city, a long line of green armored combat vehicles lined up in a file, mostly white and black, with Taliban flags in the air.
The militants took control of multi-purpose trucks – used by US, NATO and Afghan forces during the two-decade war – while others rammed into Aino Mina, a town on the outskirts of the city.
The militants’ light weapons included US M16 rifles.
Pickup trucks loaded with supporters passed a convoy of military vehicles, some armed with heavy weapons and machine guns.
At least one Black Hawk helicopter was roaring from above, indicating that someone from the former Afghan army was in control because the Taliban lacked a pilot.
An ethnic Pashtun area, Kandahar is the birthplace of the Taliban and where the hardline group came to power in 1996. By 2001, when US-led forces invaded, the Taliban had taken over much of the country.
At the Kandahar Cricket Ground, hundreds of Taliban gathered to listen to speeches after last month’s successful operation and curse the United States.
The big leaders sat in the shadows in the players’ dugouts, with their arms behind the wooden coffee tables.
Others were sitting cross-legged on the grass, while many gathered on the roof to watch.
Armed fighters in chemo flags stood in front of the crowd.
“Our common enemy, who was determined to bring economic prosperity to our land, failed to do so,” said Saqib, a Taliban recruiter.
He claimed to have brought a civilized system. Go and take a look at the airport where all the planes are in the middle.
“America has not only attacked our young soldiers. America has corrupted our media. It has taken away our culture. It has trampled on our economy.”
Hebatullah Akhundzada, the Taliban’s secret supreme leader, lives in Kandahar
It was rumored that he would appear on Wednesday, but he did not appear, leaving the city’s new governor to address the crowd.
The day before, thousands of Taliban loyalists took to the streets of Kandahar, waving flags and chanting “God is the greatest” in celebration of the last US withdrawal.
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