Taliban Carry Coffins Draped With US Flag in Celebration of Their Victory

The Islamic fundamentalist group held a mock funeral on the streets of Afghanistan the day after the United States completed their withdrawal.
Gavin Butler
Melbourne, AU
funeral taliban khost
The Taliban has declared August 31, the day after U.S. forces left Afghanistan, "Freedom Day." Photos by AFP via Getty Images (L) and courtesy of Twitter/Zhman TV (R)

August 31 has been declared “Freedom Day” in Afghanistan by members of the Taliban, who celebrated the final departure of the United States by parading through the streets with coffins draped in American and NATO flags. Other coffins at the mock funeral, which took place in the eastern city of Khost on Tuesday, were cloaked in the flags of France and the United Kingdom – all countries which have now fully withdrawn from Afghanistan following a humiliating and ignominious defeat by local militant forces.


The white flag of the Taliban was waved on high by members of the procession.

“August 31 is our formal Freedom Day,” Taliban official Qari Saeed Khosti told local television station Zhman TV during its coverage of the event. “On this day, American occupying forces and NATO forces fled the country.”

The final U.S. evacuation flights lifted off from Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International airport at 11:59 p.m. local time on Monday, marking the official end of the longest war in American history and the complete surrender of Afghanistan to the Taliban, after nearly 20 years of occupation. It also marked the end of a chaotic and at times disastrous evacuation mission that flew more than 120,000 U.S. citizens, allies and Afghans out of the country over the course of some 17 days following the fall of Kabul. Tens of thousands were left behind.

Elsewhere around Afghanistan members of the Taliban celebrated by lofting rifles over their heads and firing into the air. Taliban militants roamed the capital and the airport clad in U.S. fatigues, brandishing American-made rifles and sporting state-of-the-art tactical gear as they inspected helicopters and planes left behind by Western forces. It is understood that the aircraft cannot be flown, having been disabled by Western troops prior to their departure. As one former special forces soldier who fought in Afghanistan told VICE World News: “If anything captured at Kabul ever flies again I’d be truly shocked.”


Nonetheless, the footage coming out of Afghanistan following the departure of U.S. forces reaffirms the extreme new reality on the ground: that the country belongs to the Taliban now. And for those left behind in what has recently been renamed the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the future is uncertain.

Less than a day after the U.S. left, reports suggested that the Taliban were cementing the composition of their government. Citing Taliban sources, some reports said the new appointments included Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the group’s co-founder, as foreign minister; Mullah Yaqub Akhund, the son of the group’s former leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, as defense minister; and Sirajuddin Haqqani, leader of the notorious Haqqani Network and one of the world’s most wanted terrorists, as interior minister. VICE World News have not been able to confirm the positions independently.

Other members of the Haqqani Network were previously spotted roaming freely through the streets of Kabul, stoking fears that the Taliban will be no less brutal in their governance of the country than when they were last in power, between 1996 and 2001. During that time, the Taliban ruled a reign of terror with rife human rights abuses, due to their strict interpretation of Sharia law.


Also on Tuesday, al Qaeda released a statement on the Taliban’s victory in Afghanistan, congratulating the leaders of the Islamic emirate and the Islamic community at large for what they described as “a symbol of resilience and resistance against invading imperialist powers.”

“We praise the Almighty, the Omnipotent, who humiliated and defeated America, the head of disbelief,” reads the impassioned statement. “We praise Him for breaking America’s back, tarnishing its global reputation and expelling it, disgraced and humiliated, from the Islamic land of Afghanistan.”

“Afghanistan is undoubtedly a graveyard of empires and an impregnable fortress of Islam,” it continues. “No matter how well-equipped, numerically superior, hegemonic and brutal the enemy might be, it shall never be able to stand the test of time in the face of a nation that strongly holds onto the Book of Allah.”

Al Qaeda concluded by calling on the nation of Afghanistan to unite around the new leadership, and to “abide by the decisions and Shariah-based policies of the blessed Islamic Emirate.” The extremist group also suggested that America’s defeat in Afghanistan set a precedent for Islamic groups around the world, including in Europe and East Asia, to rise up against the West.

Speaking from the White House on August 31, President Joe Biden defended his decision. He also said that “for those who remain, we will make arrangements to get them out if they so choose.”


“We will continue to work to help more people leave the country who are at risk. We’re far from done,” Biden said, noting that “the Taliban has made public commitments, broadcast on television and radio across Afghanistan on safe passage for anyone wanting to leave, including those who worked alongside Americans.” 

The Taliban has reportedly agreed to allow foreign nationals and Afghans with relevant travel documents to leave the country safely after the international rescue mission ends. Whether they will honor their word remains to be seen – but Biden said the U.S. “have leverage” to make sure those commitments are met.

“We will continue to support the Afghan people through diplomacy, international influence and humanitarian aid,” he added. “We’ll continue to push for regional diplomacy engagement to prevent violence and instability. We’ll continue to speak out for the basic rights of Afghan people, especially women and girls … Human rights will be the centre of our foreign policy. But the way to do that is not through endless military deployments, but through diplomacy, economic tools and rallying the rest of the world for support.”

“The war in Afghanistan is now over,” Biden declared. “[It] should have ended long ago.”

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