Escape From Kabul unfolds over 18 monumental days in August 2021, from the U.S. withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan through the subsequent evacuation of tens of thousands of Afghan citizens from Kabul airport after the Taliban seized the city.
This deeply immersive and emotional documentary combines never-before-seen archival footage from those on the ground at the airport, with exclusive interviews with people who were there throughout the period, including Afghan citizens attempting to flee, US Marines tasked with managing the evacuation, and Taliban commanders and fighters who had recently taken the city.
After 20 years of war between the Taliban, (an Islamic fundamentalist group) and NATO forces, a small force of US Marines were deployed to Kabul on 13 August intending to evacuate US citizens and “at risk” Afghans who had cooperated with the Americans and Allied Forces during the conflict. The orderly evacuation was meant to be implemented by the agreed-upon deadline of 31 August, but when the Taliban unexpectedly took control of the city two days after the Marines arrived, plans changed.
Fearing reprisals and crackdowns on human rights from the Taliban, thousands of Afghan men, women, and children rushed to the airport, seeking an escape route. Taliban fighters, including suicide troops, encircled the airport perimeter in an uneasy truce with US and Allied forces. With little advance planning, US Marines battled daily to reclaim the overwhelmed airfield, all while a humanitarian catastrophe unfolded, with Afghan citizens spending days on end in the Kabul heat, without access to food or water, waiting to get through the gates to the airport. As the crowds grew increasingly desperate to leave, a tragic sequence of events unfolded, including a devastating suicide bomb attack that ISIS claimed responsibility for, killing 13 US military personnel and more than 170 Afghan civilians.
The documentary is rooted in the unexpected and historic confrontation that occurred at Kabul airport and unfolds in dramatic moment-by-moment telling over two and a half pivotal weeks. Despite the chaos and suffering, 124,000 people were evacuated during the Kabul airlift, the largest in modern U.S. history, marking a devastating end to America’s longest-running war.
A final coda, filmed in spring of 2022, confirms the Taliban government’s restrictions on women and girls and violent reprisals, leaving an uncertain future for many Afghan citizens who were not able to evacuate in August 2021.
Production & Filming Details
- Jamie Roberts.
- Jamie Roberts … producer.
- Dan Reed … executive producer.
- Ann Klein … co-ordinating producer.
- Nancy Abraham … executive producer.
- Lisa Heller … executive producer.
- HBO Documentary Films.
- BBC (in association with).
- ARTE France (in collaboration with).
- AMOS Pictures.
- HBO Max (stream).
- Release Date: 21 September 2021.
- Rating: Unknown.
- Running Time: 85 minutes.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.