A heavily armed guard lifted the enormous hotel security boom and we emerged into a Kabul that was suddenly very different.
Our driver edged his way forward as a group of bearded men passed in front of our car.
“Here they are – they are Taliban,” he quietly muttered.
They stared at us, for a few seconds time froze – the longest stare I can remember. Then they moved on, weaving between our two vehicles, and let us pass.
We hadn’t entered a new Kabul I thought, I’ve gone back in time, I’ve gone back 20 years.
This remarkable day started in the early hours of the morning with phone calls – one from our local producer who said he had unconfirmed reports that the order had been given to the Taliban foot soldiers to subtly enter Kabul.
I asked him if he was sure the Taliban was coming. “It’s not confirmed,” he said, “but yes”.
Although we’d been warned, the first instance I realised something was actually happening was an urgent call from my producer telling me to get to the roof.
“There has been shooting and people running down the street, so get to the roof now,” she said.
I actually felt a bit guilty because I was late for what was to become a day of live reporting and a day one never forgets.
Within minutes of my arrival on the roof, helicopter gunships appeared nearby, flying over the presidential palace and government buildings in the centre of Kabul.
We didn’t know what was happening.
The helicopter’s anti-missile systems fired chaff into the air – these flares divert heat seeking missiles by burning hotter than a helicopter engine.
The Taliban were in the city and the American pilots knew it.
For hours they circled above but there was nothing they could do to stop the takeover of the capital.
Occasional gunfire ripped through the air.
Throughout the day we watched as Chinook helicopters ferrying United States embassy staff to the international airport – road moves were deemed far too dangerous.
Near the presidential palace I watched from four storeys up as the Taliban marched through the very heart of this country’s government.
When I first saw the group on the street below while I was live on air, I couldn’t tell if they were armed or not, but the white Taliban flag they were carrying was the giveaway.
The tension in Kabul has been at bursting point for days now. The streets usually heaving with people and cars were now deserted.
As we drove around trying to understand what was happening, we passed through police and army checkpoints unimpeded.
Once again, Afghan soldiers had melted away.
I immediately noticed a difference driving around compared to the days before. The traffic for one, but far more striking, people on the streets were no longer wearing jeans and T-shirts, they had changed into traditional shalwar kameez clothing, and virtually no women were to be seen.
The only traffic jam in the city was near the airport. All day there has been a mad scramble to get on flights that have been cancelled – and to military flights to which there is no access.
We drove past dozens of people walking with all their belongings, trying to find somewhere to stay. They are from Mazar, the latest arrivals from battles around the country.
None will forget the day the Taliban returned – their 20-year war won.
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