Inside a surreal journey from the Pakistani border to Taliban-controlled Kabul – CNN

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Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

Taliban fighters try to stop the advance of female protesters marching through Kabul, Afghanistan, on Wednesday, September 8. It was a day after the Taliban announced an all-male interim government with no representation for women or ethnic minority groups.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

Journalists from the Etilaatroz newspaper — video journalist Nemat Naqdi, left, and video editor Taqi Daryabi — undress to show wounds they sustained after Taliban fighters tortured and beat them while in custody. They had been arrested while reporting on a women's rights protest in Kabul on September 8.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

US President Joe Biden delivers a speech at the White House on August 31, defending the chaotic withdrawal from Kabul a day after the last American military planes left Afghanistan. The withdrawal concluded the United States' longest war nearly 20 years after it began. "I was not going to extend this forever war, and I was not extending a forever exit," Biden said.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

Taliban fighters sit in the cockpit of an Afghan Air Force aircraft that was left behind at the airport in Kabul on August 31.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

Heavily armed Taliban fighters are seen at the airport in Kabul on August 31.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

Afghan Air Force attack aircraft are pictured amid armored vests inside a hangar at the Kabul airport on August 31. Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said the US military had made "unusable all the gear that is at the airport -- all the aircraft, all the ground vehicles."

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

Taliban fighters storm the Kabul airport on August 31 after the US military completed its withdrawal.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

US Army Maj. Gen. Chris Donahue, commanding general of the 82nd Airborne, boards a C-17 military transport plane to depart Kabul on August 31. He was the last US soldier to leave the country.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

Celebratory gunfire lights up the sky after the last US aircraft left the Kabul airport.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

Taliban fighters bow in prayer on August 31 after they secured the Kabul airport and inspected the equipment that was left behind.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

Planes are seen on the tarmac at the Kabul airport late on August 30.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

A C-17 military transport plane is a dot in the sky as it leaves Kabul on August 30.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

A casket is brought to a grave site at a mass funeral in Kabul on August 30. Ten members of one family — including seven children — were dead after a US drone strike targeted a vehicle in a residential neighborhood of Kabul, a relative of the dead told CNN. The United States carried out what it called a defensive airstrike in Kabul, targeting a suspected ISIS-K suicide bomber who posed an "imminent" threat to the airport, US Central Command said. The Pentagon has said the strike resulted in secondary explosions and that those explosions may have been what killed the civilians.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

Samia Ahmadi, right, whose father and fiancé were both dead following the US drone strike, mourns her loved ones on August 30.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

A damaged car is seen in Kabul after a US drone strike reportedly targeted a suspected ISIS-K suicide bomber on August 29. US officials believe ISIS-K, the ISIS branch that rivals the Taliban in Afghanistan, was likely behind the August 26 bomb attack that killed 13 US service members and at least 170 others.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

Members of the Badri 313 Battalion, a group of Taliban special forces fighters tasked with securing the area surrounding the Kabul airport, perform evening prayers on August 28.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

Women weep at a mosque in Kabul on August 27 as they view the body of Hussein, a victim of the suicide bombing a day earlier.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

Ruhullah, 16, mourns during the burial of his father, Hussein, a former police officer who was killed in the attack at the Kabul airport. Ruhullah survived the blast but got separated from his father and did not know he had died until he made his way back to his family a day later.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

US President Joe Biden pauses as he listens to a question about the suicide bombing on August 26. He vowed to retaliate for the attack. "We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay," he said.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

People who were injured in the August 26 suicide bombing are visited by family members at a hospital in Kabul.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

Smoke rises from the explosion outside the airport in Kabul on August 26.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

An injured person arrives at a hospital after the suicide bombing outside the airport in Kabul on August 26.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

Families who fled Kabul, Afghanistan, wait to board a bus in Chantilly, Virginia, after they arrived at Washington Dulles International Airport on August 25.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

This satellite image shows crowds gathered outside a gate to the international airport in Kabul on August 23. Western countries were in a frantic race to complete what US President Joe Biden called "one of the largest, most difficult airlifts in history."

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, addresses hundreds of religious leaders who were attending an event held by the Taliban's Preaching and Guidance Commission on August 23.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

Boys play in a retention pool in Kabul on August 22, at the tomb of Mohammed Nadir Shah, a former king of Afghanistan.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

Amir Saib Zada negotiates with customers at his shop that sells luggage and burqas in Kabul's Lycee Maryam Bazaar on August 22.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

People gather outside the airport in Kabul as a military transport plane takes off on August 21.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

Families who fled Kabul board a bus in Chantilly, Virginia, after they arrived at Washington Dulles International Airport on August 21.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

In this photo released by the US Air Force, an air crew prepares to load evacuees onto a C-17 transport plane at the airport in Kabul on August 21.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

Khalil Haqqani, a leader of the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network and a US-designated terrorist, delivers remarks after Friday prayers at the Pul-e Khishti Mosque in Kabul on August 20. It was the first Friday prayers since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

A boy sells Taliban flags to put on vehicles in the middle of a Kabul intersection on August 20.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

People and vendors gather on the streets of Kabul on August 20.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

Despite the presence of Taliban fighters around them, Afghans wave the country's national flag during an Independence Day rally in Kabul on August 19. The Taliban seek to replace the black, red and green Afghan flag with their own white and black flag.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

Afghans sit inside a US military aircraft to leave Kabul on August 19. The US Air Force evacuated approximately 3,000 people from Kabul's international airport that day, according to a White House official. Nearly 350 US citizens were among the evacuees, the official said, with the others being family members of US citizens, Special Immigrant Visa applicants and their families, and other vulnerable Afghans. Some civilian charter flights had also departed the Kabul airport in the previous 24 hours.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

In this photo released by the Taliban, fighters brandish US assault weapons at an Independence Day parade in Qalat, Afghanistan, on August 19. The Taliban's newfound American arsenal is likely not limited to small arms, as the group captured sizable stockpiles of weapons and vehicles held at strongholds once controlled by US-backed forces.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

In this still image taken from a video posted to social media, a baby is handed to American troops over the perimeter wall of the airport in Kabul on August 19. Maj. James Stenger, a spokesman for the Marines, confirmed to The New York Times that the baby received medical treatment and was reunited with their father at the airport.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

A heavily armed Taliban fighter guards the Afghanistan central bank in Kabul on August 19.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

In this photo released by the White House on August 18, US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are briefed by their national security team on the evolving situation in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

People walk past a half-destroyed poster of former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul on August 18.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

A Taliban fighter walks past a beauty salon in Kabul where images of women had been defaced by spray paint. As news broke that the Taliban had captured Kabul, some images of uncovered women were painted over in the Afghan capital. When the Taliban last ruled in Afghanistan, women were barred from public life and only allowed outside when escorted by men and dressed in burqas.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

A man carries a bloodied child as a wounded woman lies on the street after Taliban fighters fired guns and lashed out with whips and other objects to control a crowd outside the airport in Kabul on August 17. "The violence was indiscriminate," Los Angeles Times photographer Marcus Yam told CNN. "I even watched one Taliban fighter, after firing some shots in the general direction of the crowd, smiling at another Taliban fighter — as though it were a game to them or something."

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

A man reacts as he watches Taliban fighters use violence to control a crowd outside the airport on August 17. At least a dozen people were wounded in the incident, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid addresses reporters in Kabul on August 17. "We don't want Afghanistan to be a battlefield," he said. "Today the fighting is over. ... Whoever was against the opposition has been given blanket amnesty." Those promises have been met with skepticism by the international community. It was the Taliban's first news conference since they took control of Kabul.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

Afghans rush to the airport in Kabul as they try to flee the capital on August 16.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

A US soldier points a gun while working to secure Kabul's airport on August 16. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin approved the deployment of 1,000 more American troops into the country due to the deteriorating security situation, a defense official told CNN, upping the number of troops in the country to 6,000. 

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

Afghans sit on the tarmac as they wait to leave the airport in Kabul on August 16.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

Afghans run alongside a US Air Force transport plane on the runway of the Kabul airport on August 16. Video showed people clinging to the fuselage of the aircraft as it taxied.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

In this photo released by the US Air Force, an Afghan child sleeps on the floor of an Air Force transport plane during an evacuation flight out of Kabul on August 15.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

An Afghan soldier, who didn't want to use his name, is seen at an outpost in Kabul on August 15. He looked at the city below and said, "This is like a quick death," referring to the fall of Kabul. He said it was going to be a hard moment for him when he removes his uniform permanently after 10 years of service.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

Taliban fighters sit inside the presidential palace in Kabul on August 15. The palace was handed over to the Taliban after being vacated hours earlier by Afghan government officials.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

A Taliban flag is seen on a motorcycle ridden by a Taliban fighter on August 15.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

British forces arrive in Kabul on August 15 to assist British nationals in evacuating the city.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

A US military helicopter flies above the US Embassy in Kabul on August 15. The embassy was evacuated as Taliban fighters entered the city.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

Taliban fighters ride a Humvee near a Kabul roundabout on August 15.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

Evacuees crowd the interior of a US Air Force transport plane as they travel from Kabul to Qatar on August 15.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

A traffic jam is seen in Kabul on August 15 as some Afghans were looking to flee the city.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

US President Joe Biden holds a virtual meeting with senior officials and members of his national security team on August 15. Biden was working from Maryland's Camp David, the presidential retreat where he was vacationing at the time.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

Taliban fighters are seen in Kandahar, Afghanistan, on August 14. The Taliban had seized Kandahar, the country's second-largest city, and a number of other provincial capitals. Kandahar, which lies in the south of the country, had been besieged by the Taliban for weeks. Many observers considered its fall as the beginning of the end for the country's government.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

People wait to cross the Afghan-Pakistani border at Chaman, Pakistan, on August 13. The border crossing was closed for several days before it was reopened.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

Displaced Afghans from the country's northern provinces arrive at a makeshift camp in Kabul on August 10. Provincial capitals in the north were among the first to fall to the Taliban.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

Shops in Kunduz, Afghanistan, are damaged after fighting between Taliban militants and Afghan military forces on August 8. Kunduz was the first major city to fall to the Taliban since they began their offensive in May.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

Hanif, who was struck in the temple by a stray bullet, and his older brother, Mohammed, are seen at the Mirwais Regional Hospital in Kandahar on August 5. Kandahar had been under siege for a month.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

An Afghan woman and her children carry their belongings after fleeing their home in Kandahar on August 4.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

An Afghan militia fighter looks out for Taliban insurgents at an outpost in Afghanistan's Balkh Province on July 15.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

US Gen. Austin S. Miller, left, greets Gen. Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, Afghanistan's defense minister, during a change-of-command ceremony in Kabul on July 12. Miller, the top American general in Afghanistan, was stepping down, a symbolic moment as the United States neared the end of its 20-year-old war in the country.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

A member of the Afghan Special Forces drives a Humvee during a combat mission against the Taliban on July 11. Danish Siddiqui, the Reuters photographer who took this photo, was killed days later during clashes in Afghanistan. Siddiqui had been a photographer for Reuters since 2010, and he was the news agency's chief photographer in India. He was also part of a Reuters team that won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography covering Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

A member of the Afghan Special Forces prays on a highway before a combat mission in Afghanistan's Kandahar province on July 11.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

Afghan commandos look out from a window at a home in Kunduz on July 6. The Taliban were moving rapidly to take over districts in northern Afghanistan.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

A member of Afghanistan's security forces walks at Bagram Air Base on July 5 after the last American troops departed the compound. It marked the end of the American presence at a sprawling compound that became the center of military power in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

Hundreds of armed men attend a gathering on the outskirts of Kabul on June 23 to announce their support for Afghan security forces and say that they are ready to fight against the Taliban.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

A helicopter is loaded onto a US Air Force plane as American forces carry out their withdrawal from Afghanistan on June 16.

Afghanistan in crisis after Taliban takeover

US President Joe Biden, speaking from the White House Treaty Room on April 14, formally announces his decision to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan before September 11. "I am now the fourth American president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan. Two Republicans. Two Democrats," Biden said. "I will not pass this responsibility to a fifth."

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