Covert evacuation and planned demolition: how the CIA left its last base in Afghanistan

Covert evacuation and planned demolition: how the CIA left its last base in Afghanistan

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Islam News – In the weeks leading up to President Biden’s August 31 deadline to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan, a secret and highly secure compound used by the Central Intelligence Agency became the center of a covert evacuation, before parts of it were taken away. Deliberately destroyed, an investigation by The New York Times found.

The CIA used part of the complex called Eagle Base to train Afghan counter-terrorism units. Another section—the CIA’s first detention center in Afghanistan known as the Salt Pit—was where a US government report received That the agency had tortured the prisoners. Structures at both Eagle Base and the Salt Pit were demolished to prevent the Taliban from seizing the sensitive material.

Even as many of these planned explosions were taking place, the heliport on the complex was still used for covert evacuations, according to visual analysis and a former agency contractor.

The Times analyzed satellite imagery, corporate records, active fire data and flight paths to assess how the evacuation and planned demolition played out – and how the Taliban ultimately gained easy access to the complex.

Compound
Nestled between the industrial outskirts of Kabul and a mountain range, the complex is less than three miles from Hamid Karzai International Airport. It covers about two square miles and can be seen in satellite imagery, but there are virtually no on-the-ground photos showing the inside of the site.

salt pit
The CIA first began destroying buildings in the Salt Pit in April and May, following Mr Biden’s announcement that US forces would leave the country by September.

Construction on these demolished buildings began between 2002 and 2004 – years when US lawmakers say the CIA engaged in “advanced interrogation techniques” at the site.

Further destruction appears to have occurred on August 27, the day the Pentagon said the US military carried out a controlled demolition of its own equipment. Publicly available data from NASA sensors shows signs of heat at the site possibly caused by active fires and explosions. Satellite imagery taken the next day also clearly showed the damage caused by the fire to two warehouses.

eagle base
Eagle Base, where the CIA trained Afghan forces, was originally established in a former brick factory. It was later expanded into a larger complex of newly constructed buildings, current and former US officials told The Times.

These new structures, which a former government intelligence analyst says include an ammunition depot and elaborate training sites, were largely destroyed on 27 August.

According to a former agency contractor, the buildings are likely to contain documents, hard drives and other sensitive information. the officials have confirmed Eagle Base was destroyed.

abandonment
During several weeks in August, as the United States raced to shut down its diplomatic missions in Afghanistan, American citizens and Afghans who were likely to be targeted by the Taliban were evacuated from the compound.

A satellite image taken for The Times by Planet Labs on August 24 shows dozens of vehicles parked inside the campus – well beyond the normal numbers typically seen at the site. Several vehicles seem to have been deliberately set ablaze later.

People were sent by helicopter to Hamid Karzai International Airport to escape Taliban posts. Flight data shows that three Mi-17 helicopters have made at least 35 flights to or from the compound since the Taliban took control of Kabul on August 15. According to people briefed about the operation, hundreds of people were evacuated from the scene since that day.

Understand the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan

Who are the Taliban? The rise of the Taliban in 1994 amidst the turmoil that followed the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan in 1989. They used brutal public punishments, including flogging, limb amputations, and mass executions, to enforce their rules. here’s more Their Origin Story and Their Records as Rulers.

Who is the Taliban leader? these are top Taliban leader, men who have spent years escaping, hiding, in prison, and dodging American drones. Little is known about them or how they plan to govern, including whether they will be as tolerant as they claim to be. a spokesperson told the Times That the group wants to forget their past, but there will be some restrictions.

In the graphic below, we’ve selected three flights since August 15 that show the routes these planes have typically taken over the past few weeks between the site, the airport, and sometimes the US Embassy complex.

The types of aircraft used – and their opaque ownership structures – provide clues that these flights were designed in secret and involved in sensitive missions.

The helicopters are Russian-made Mi-17s, which are usually flown by the Afghan military, and will generally not attract unwanted attention in the skies over Kabul. And the specific

are registered for a private US company whose manager has ties to US defense agencies. For security reasons, the Times is not identifying the firm or tail numbers.

We found that a flight was inadvertently captured in a livestream by MarcaTV, a Spanish news outlet, as it took off towards the compound on 20 August.

The CIA previously accepted That he has flown a Mi-17 – and even used one – to enter Afghanistan to start the war in September 2001.

According to flight tracking data, helicopters operated mostly in secluded parts of the airport in Kabul since April 7. Other aircraft based at the same location include aircraft affiliated with a company, Taper Aviation. previously associated with the CIA

arrival of taliban
The evacuation and building demolition at the CIA compound were completed by August 28. Videos shared online on 30 August show Taliban fighters had already reached the site.

Even with some of the compound in ruins, it seemed clear that the fighters knew what they had stumbled upon.

“It was a very important spot,” said a Taliban member as his camera looked across the rubble.

additional production by Drew Jordan, Dmitry Khavin And Phil Robibero. Reporting was contributed by Julian Barnes, Farnaz Fassih, Adam Goldman, Brenna Smith, Evan Hill And Kitty Bennett. Translation by Masood Farzan.

Source: The New York Times