In the beginning, the American military campaign in Afghanistan was officially known as Operation Enduring Freedom. Lofty ideals and ambitions are inherent in such a title, but 20 years later they look hopelessly misplaced. As names go, it now reads like a tragically bad joke.
Afghanistan is today a graveyard of Western ideals that many Afghans had come to hold dear. I said sorry to a lot of those people during the 11 days since the Taliban takeover that we stayed in Kabul, a city we have now left.
One of the reasons we stayed at the Serena Hotel, in the centre of the capital, is that it’s also home to the Qatari Embassy. The Gulf country has played an enormous role in all of this. The Qataris were the intermediaries as the Americans and the Taliban negotiated the end. We felt that as long as we were close to the Qataris, we would be relatively safe.
It was the Qataris who got us out of there. Myself, cameraman Sean Swan and producer Lutfi Abu-Aun are also indebted to the NBC news correspondent Richard Engel, who used his contacts to make sure we were on a flight from Kabul to the Qatari capital Doha. Driving from the hotel to the airport, we almost certainly passed people who would be killed later in the day in the suicide bomb attack close to one of the entrances.