The first eyewitness account of the fraught evacuation of Kabul.
As a Royal Marine Commando, H. Collins served in Afghanistan in 2001 on combat operations. He took part in the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and returned for a second tour the following year. In 2005, now a private security contractor, he spent five years in Ramadi and Fallujah, Iraq’s so-called ‘triangle of death’.
In 2014, H was back in Afghanistan, providing security for the Japanese Embassy in Kabul. In 2021, when the chaotic evacuation of the Afghan capital began, it was a tough call for the Japanese government to leave behind their significant investment in Afghanistan’s future. When H finally got the go-ahead to extract the embassy’s diplomats and staff, he was leading the only security team remaining in a city rapidly filling with Taliban fighters.
This is an eyewitness account of the final, fraught six days that H and his team spent in Kabul. Their first attempt to reach the airport ran into a firefight between Afghan government forces and the Taliban and had to be aborted to ensure the safety of their Japanese clients.
H decided on a late-night extraction under cover of darkness, following which his small team of twelve men were forced to speed through Taliban-controlled checkpoints in order to get back to their HQ compound, where the remaining ops staff and seventy-two unarmed Ghurka waited.
A live feed from a special forces drone revealed that they had been tailed back from the airport and Taliban fighters were now surrounding the compound. Special forces had also let them know that three of the Taliban who had demanded a meeting in the compound had been wearing suicide vests.
Surrounded by the Taliban, for six days, H and his men manned their defensive positions day and night. H knew that no help would come and the Taliban’s intentions were far from clear. If they could not make it through the increasingly chaotic city to the now completely surrounded airport, they would inevitably be overrun, and could expect the same fate as so many before them. Or they could try to punch their way out of the encircled capital and head to the border, or a Northern Alliance stronghold.
H’s ability to keep his team calm and focused would be key to their survival. If they made it, they would be the last team out of Kabul.