U.S. Embassy Staffer Saves American Flag From Being Destroyed During Afghanistan Evacuation

A U.S. embassy staffer reportedly saved an American flag from being burned amid evacuation efforts in Afghanistan, after staff members were told to destroy any materials that could be misused by the Taliban as propaganda.

According to J.p. Lawrence, a reporter from Stars and Stripes newspaper, the staffer expressed that the flag was "meaningful to him," as workers were told by the U.S. government on Friday to rid of all sensitive materials or items – including papers, electronics, items with embassy or agency logos, and American flags – as the Taliban seized control across the country.

A US embassy staffer holds an American flag that he saved from burning. Staffers were told to destroy/sanitize American flags and items that could be used for propaganda value by the Taliban. This staffer said it felt meaningful to him to keep this flag. @starsandstripes pic.twitter.com/wUDGZrLoS5

— J.p. Lawrence (@JpLawrence3) August 15, 2021

On Sunday, Taliban militants entered the outskirts of the Afghan capital, Kabul, and sought the unconditional surrender of the nation's central government, according to the Associated Press. The city marked the last major government stronghold, after Taliban insurgents seized power across the country in just over a week.

Citing three Afghan officials, the AP reported that Taliban fighters were advancing on Kabul, with the Afghan Interior Ministry telling Reuters and Agence France-Presse that the insurgents were moving into the city from all sides.

The Taliban, in a statement, said that they were in negotiations with the government and would not take the capital by force. "No one's life, property and dignity will be harmed and the lives of the citizens of Kabul will not be at risk," the insurgent group said.

But the city, home to approximately 4 million people, now faces an uncertain future in the hours—and years—ahead, as sporadic gunfire could be heard around its outer edges.

Amid the chaos, the U.S. military began evacuating American diplomatic and civilian staff from its embassy on Thursday. Staffers on Friday were told to destroy all sensitive materials, and a core group of American diplomats who had planned to remain at the embassy were moved to facility at the international airport.

Afghanistan U.S. helicopter
A US military helicopter is pictured flying near the U.S. embassy amid hurried evacuations in Kabul on August 15, 2021. WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images

Over the weekend, the total number of U.S. troops in the city grew to 5,000 after an additional 1,000 troops were sent to help accelerate the process of getting Americans out of the country.

The Taliban's rapid advance across the country comes after the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in May. On Saturday, President Joe Biden remained steadfast in his decision to oversee with complete removal of U.S. troops from the country.

"I was the fourth president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan — two Republicans, two Democrats," he said on Saturday. "I would not, and will not, pass this war onto a fifth."

Taliban militants faced little resistance as they surged through the country in the past week—despite the fact that the U.S. spent more than $83 billion to support over nearly 20 years to support Afghan security forces.

Panic set in on Sunday as many civilians rushed to leave the country through the Kabul airport—the last route out—as Taliban militants now control every border crossing. Many Afghans now fear a return to extremist rule, particularly in its treatment of women.

The last time the Taliban ruled the country from 1996 to 2001, it barred women and girls from taking most jobs or going to school, closed movie theaters, shuttered the Kabul television station, and banned the playing of all music.