Outdoors the principle iron gate of the Indian embassy in Kabul, a gaggle of Taliban fighters waited, armed with machine weapons and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
Contained in the compound have been 150 Indian diplomats and nationals, rising more and more nervous as they watched information of the Taliban tightening their grip on the capital, which they took a day earlier with out a battle.
Their place was a precarious one.
Pakistan has lengthy been the Taliban’s largest supporter, utilizing the nation for so-called “strategic depth” in endless battles – actual and diplomatic – with archrival India.
India, in flip, strongly backed the federal government that took over when the Taliban was eliminated, incomes them hatred and enmity from the hardline group.
However the Taliban fighters exterior the Indian embassy weren’t there to extact revenge however somewhat to escort them to Kabul airport, the place a army plane was on standby to evacuate them after New Delhi determined to close its mission.
As the primary of practically two dozen automobiles drove out of the embassy late on Monday, a few of the fighters waved and smiled on the passengers, an AFP information company correspondent amongst them.
One guided them in direction of the road main out of the town’s inexperienced zone and on the principle highway to the airport.
The embassy’s resolution to ask the Taliban to shepherd the Indians out was made when the fighters closed entry to the as soon as closely fortified neighbourhood after capturing Kabul the day prior to this.
1 / 4 of the 200 or so individuals who had gathered on the international mission had already been flown out of Afghanistan earlier than the nation’s new leaders took full management of the town.
“Once we have been evacuating the second group … we confronted the Taliban, who refused to permit us to exit the inexperienced zone,” mentioned an official who left with Monday’s group.
“We then determined to contact the Taliban and ask them to escort our convoy out.”
Two separate pledges of an escort did not materialise throughout the day, unnerving the big group hunkered down on the embassy, with one diplomat likening the expertise to “home arrest”.
It had been darkish for a number of hours when the automobiles lastly left the compound and launched into the five-kilometre (3-mile) journey to the airport.
The snail-paced journey took 5 hours, with passengers passing every minute in fixed concern of a possible assault.
‘I instantly knew it was time to depart’
Unfamiliar checkpoints had been arrange and hundreds of individuals displaced by the warfare have been alongside the highway.
At intervals, the Taliban fighters accompanying the Indian convoy jumped out of their very own automobiles and aimed their weapons on the crowds, forcing them to step again.
One man who gave the impression to be commanding the troops fired a number of rounds within the air to scare again a big group gathered round one intersection.
The escort departed as soon as the convoy reached the airport, the place American troopers had taken up positions and have been coordinating flights.
After a wait of one other two hours, the group boarded a C-17 Indian army transport aircraft that took off at daybreak, touchdown at an air power base within the western Indian state of Gujarat later that morning.
“I’m so comfortable to be again,” Shirin Pathare, an Air India worker flown out of Kabul, informed the AFP information company as he stepped off the plane. “India is paradise.”
One other Indian citizen, cradling his two-year-old daughter, recalled the chaos and nervousness of his hasty departure from his workplace and the town.
“Simply hours earlier than I took the flight a gaggle of Taliban visited my office,” mentioned the person, declining to provide AFP his title.
“They have been well mannered however after they went, they took two of our automobiles. I instantly knew it was time for me and my household to depart,” he added.