A photograph believed to show a US soldier cradling the flag from the American Embassy in Kabul as it was loaded onto a plane departing Afghanistan has emerged.
The picture was apparently taken amid chaotic scenes as the US raced to exfiltrate some of the 4,000 embassy employees – both Afghan and US citizens – from Kabul on military flights, as the Taliban took control of the country after 20 years of occupation by western forces.
The lowering of the flag on Sunday marked the symbolic withdrawal of the official US presence in Afghanistan, inviting comparisons with the rooftop escape from the Saigon embassy at the end of the Vietnam War.
Embassy staff were reportedly destroying sensitive documents and equipment as the Taliban bore down on the fortified precinct on Sunday.
Ambassador Ross Wilson and other US diplomats were taken from the embassy to the airport on Chinook helicopters where they were assisting thousands of people trying to board US military flights out of the country.
The US flag which flew over the embassy in Kabul has also been taken to the airport and will soon be removed from the country. An ignominious end just weeks before the 20th anniversary of 911. https://t.co/ucwMtLVEjH
— Nick Bryant (@NickBryantNY) August 15, 2021
Contrary to false reports, @USEmbassyKabul staff & I remain in #Kabul working hard to help 1000s of U.S. citizens and vulnerable Afghans & continuing engagement here. Our commitment to the Afghan people endures.
— Chargé d’Affaires Ross Wilson (@USAmbKabul) August 17, 2021
Fox News first obtained the photograph of the US soldier clutching the folded embassy flag.
The Independent has approached the State Department to verify its authenticity.
On Tuesday, flights resumed from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul after they had been temporarily halted on Monday when thousands of Afghans swarmed the airport in desperate search of a way out of the country.
Pentagon spokesman Maj Gen Hank Taylor told a press briefing on Tuesday that one flight per hour was leaving the airport.
Negotiations between the US military and the Taliban were continuing to ensure safe passage of the remaining Americans, the Pentagon said.
It came as the Taliban’s de facto leader, Abdul Ghani Baradar, arrived in Kandahar from Doha on Tuesday.
He was released from prison in Pakistan under a deal brokered by the US Government.
Some 640 Afghans crowded onto a C-17 transport Globemaster II cargo flight to Qatar as they fled the country with nothing but the clothes they were wearing.
Earlier on Monday, US troops shot and killed two men who opened fire on them as thousands of Afghans tried to make their way onto flights out of the country.
Three people fell to their deaths from a C-17 after it had taken off from Kabul airport.
In a televised address, President Joe Biden conceded the situation had unfolded “more quickly than we anticipated”.