The day after the fall of Kabul, he had arrived at his usual place at the airport, which felt like a ghost town: security and flight personnel had given up their posts. Around noon, chaos hit the asphalt as people flooded the airport.
Gul joined the frenzy and jumped into four commercial planes – all lying on the ground – before rushing on an American evacuation flight. Even when Americans turned off the air conditioning and told everyone the plane was broken, no one moved.
Now, as he settled into life at Camp As Sayliyah, he said the quick decision to leave was on him. His wife and three children under the age of 6 remain in Kabul.
“I can’t sleep at night,” he says. “I was a member of the security forces, what if my family is targeted? Who feeds them? “
He added: “I am here alone and you are in Afghanistan where the situation is dire.”
Nobody knows how long Gul and others will have to wait for screening at camp because they are unable to work or give money back to their families.
Crowds climb to use the few phone chargers – often among the only items they brought with them besides the clothes they were wearing. People look for cigarette butts on the ground and retrieve small pieces of tobacco. Every day around 5 a.m., a line swells up outside the food hall, people wait hours to enter, and sweat seeps through their clothes in the relentless heat. Last week, some in the camp complained of food shortages after receiving ready-to-eat meals – or MREs – normally used by the military.
The queues offer a window into the chaotic exit from Kabul: There are shopkeepers whose shops were next to the airport, members of the security forces who have given up their posts there and employees of the Afghan airline Kam Air who are still in uniform after the jump Aircraft.