- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 2, 2001

KABUL, Afghanistan American diplomats may soon reclaim their abandoned embassy compound, but for now it stands as a monument to Afghanistan's history of political unrest.
The modern, tan brick embassy compound was repeatedly vandalized and looted since it was abandoned over ten years ago. Anything of value that could not be stolen was destroyed.
The windows of the two-story embassy building were once covered with plywood timbers. Many of them have now been removed, but the wrought iron grill mesh is still in place. Office furniture including desks, chairs and a gray metal hat rack are visible through broken windows. Air-conditioner units, still protruding from the lower windows, are battered.
Scattered wreckage at the building's back entrance include a toppled gasoline pump, a pulverized lawn mower and fire extinguisher. An unseen electrical unit inside the embassy building emits an inexplicable, low hum.
A few yards away from the main embassy building, concrete steps lead down to a thick-walled block of subterranean rooms which were open with electric lights on. According to an Afghan guard, Taliban fighters sought refuge there during the U.S.-led air campaign meant to topple their regime.
"During the American bombardment, some Taliban stayed down here for about one month," the guard, Wahid Ullah, said. "They were hiding from the bombs."
Two copies of the Koran had been carefully wrapped in cloth and set on top of a cabinet.
Through the embassy's steel front gate raked by gunfire, elegant stairs rise to a pair of glass-fronted doors, now shattered by bullet holes. Raiders smashed through the main foyer but were halted at the heavy, steel inner door.
Battered and rusting, the door has not been breached since it was sealed during a snowstorm in February 1989 when John Glassman, the U.S. charge d'affaires, lowered the flag, sealed the compound and fled with his staff.
"I have a Harley Davidson parked under the U.S. Embassy, so nothing is going to stop me from getting out of Afghanistan," Mr. Glassman deadpanned at the time. "If I can't fly out today, I'll ride right through muj [mujahideen] territory and through the Khyber Pass to Pakistan."
The U.S.-backed mujahideen, a nationalist guerrilla force, had just declared victory over the Soviet Union and ended a decade-long occupation. On the northern frontier, the last of 150,000 Soviet troops were completing their ignominious withdrawal. The country was descending into anarchy and U.S. officials, having already lost one diplomat in past times of unrest in Afghanistan, were not staying.
On the embassy's spacious yellowing lawn, amid pine trees, roses and other bushes, a gray marble headstone in memory of murdered U.S. Ambassador Adolph Dubs had been partially smashed.
Mr. Dubs was assassinated in Kabul on Feb. 14, 1979, prompting the end to U.S. assistance to the Afghan government 10 months before the Soviet invasion.
Washington shut the embassy in Afghanistan amid fears that a blood bath would erupt in Kabul within six months of the Soviet pullout. Savage fighting did begin three years later in the capital after mujahideen guerrillas finally entered the capital and factions began vying for power.
From 1992-96, tens of thousands of guerrillas and civilians perished in Kabul under the confused administration of President Burhanuddin Rabbani. Kabul's urban warfare ended when the Taliban seized power.
Mr. Rabbani is still recognized by the United Nations as president of Afghanistan. His Northern Alliance returned to Kabul on Nov. 13 after the Taliban fled.
Among the debris left inside one subterranean room is a desk covered with "official business" shipping labels from the American Embassy. A two-page photocopy of the Bible's book of Ecclesiastes rested in another desk drawer and included the familiar passage advising of "A time to kill; A time to heal; A time to destroy; A time to rebuild."

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