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The SVT team left Afghanistan: ‘Be on the verge of being defeated’

Since the Taliban captured their first provincial capital, it took just nine days before they could push President Ashraf Ghani to flee and take control of the Afghan capital, Kabul.

At the same time as people were desperately trying to flee there, SVT Middle East correspondent Samir Abu Eid and photographer Salem Al-Sabbagh went there.

– When we arrived on Sunday morning, we learned that the Taliban had surrounded Kabul and that they might come. Everyone thought it would take some time, but when we went out into town to file a report, gunfire was heard. People panicked and the information reached us that the Taliban had captured Kabul, says Samir Abu Eid.

‘Aggressive and threatening’

He and Salem al-Sabbagh stayed and described the course of events for several days before heading to the airport to leave the country.

– There we had to go through some checkpoints set up by the Taliban. It was very scary, because they were very aggressive and scary.

Kabul International Airport is the only possible way out of Afghanistan since the Taliban took control of the country and began controlling its borders. The desperation to leave the country prompted hundreds of Afghans to take refuge at the airport, and several people were said to have died in the uprising.

– We were about to get hit ourselves. It was disgusting to see how they beat ordinary Afghans who wanted to enter the airport. Samir Abu Eid says that since we had Swedish passports, we were able to get to the airport.

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We want to be there and tell you.

On Wednesday, the SVT team was evacuated to a British military transport plane. After about three hours in the air, they have landed in Dubai, and will soon travel to the United Kingdom.

While it would be nice to leave Afghanistan, Samir Abu Eid insists it was the right decision to go there.

– As a journalist and reporter, you want to be on site and report on this historical development. Of course, we know there are risks. You feel some anxiety and fear. But we didn’t want him to stop us and thought it was worth the risk and be the eyes and ears of the spectators and tell the house what we’re seeing, he says.

SVT foreign director Pia Bernhardson is on the same path:

– It’s been 20 years of massive military, political and economic efforts to prevent the Taliban from coming back, and so they do and everything is falling like a house of cards. It’s a straightforward journalistic job, and then we want to be there and have a say, she says on Korrenspondenterna Live.

The fact that the Taliban would capture Kabul on the same day the team landed was not something SVT expected.

Nor the United States, NATO, or the Swedish government. Nobody does, I would say. It surprised everyone, and so did we,” says Pia Bernhardson.