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Fact-checking viral photos, videos about Taliban and Afghanistan

Since news broke of the Taliban’s rush to seize power in Afghanistan, images and videos have circulated online but not all are connected to current events.

Photos and videos are circulating online across websites and social media after the Taliban swiftly took control of Afghanistan from the American-supported Afghan government this August. 

President Joe Biden on Aug. 14 announced approximately 5,000 U.S. troops would be deployed to Afghanistan to ensure an “orderly and safe drawdown” of U.S. personnel and other allied personnel, and the evacuation of Afghan allies who are at risk. 

Since the news broke of the Taliban takeover, many photos and videos have been shared online, allegedly taken from the current situation in Afghanistan. VERIFY looked into what’s true and false.

THE QUESTION

Is this photo of a packed plane actually from Afghanistan?

THE SOURCES 

THE ANSWER

This is true.

Yes, that photo was actually taken on Aug. 15 from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. 

WHAT WE FOUND

The photo was taken on Aug. 15 from Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport and shows 640 Afghan citizen’s packed into a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III, according to the U.S. Air Mobility Command Public Affairs office

A day after this photo was taken, swarms of people were still crowding the Kabul airport’s runway, as confirmed by satellite imagery taken by Maxar Technologies. The satellite that took the images “is part of the Maxar constellation and its name is WorldView-3. It collects the highest resolution, commercial satellite imagery available (30 cm),” the company told VERIFY. 

Credit: Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies

THE QUESTION

Does this photo show people being airlifted from a Kabul airport?

Credit: Screenshot/Twitter


The tweet seen above was deleted by the user, after being shared hundreds of times. The archive can be found here.

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is false.

No, that photo was not taken from Kabul. That photo was taken in 2013 by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ramon Brockington.

WHAT WE FOUND

At the time of writing, the tweet from user @GEEMS71 had 180 retweets and more than 600 likes. The tweet has since been deleted, but an archive can be found here. The photo was actually taken in 2013 by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ramon Brockington. 

VERIFY used RevEye, a reverse image search tool, and found the photo featured on the Pacific Air Forces website, showing: “More than 670 Tacloban residents sit on board a C-17 Globemaster III before being evacuated to Manila following Super Typhoon Haiyan, which hit the Philippines Nov. 17, 2013.”

“Pacific Air Forces, headquartered at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, is one of nine U.S. Air Force major commands and the air component of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. PACAF's primary mission is to provide ready air and space power to promote U.S. interests in the Indo-Pacific region,” according to the official website.

THE QUESTION

Is this video of the Taliban taking over the presidential palace real?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is false.

No, this video was actually taken from Syria in 2015. 

WHAT WE FOUND

This video was shared across Facebook, with a post claiming it was taken in Kabul. The video was taken in 2015 amid unrest in Syria.

Using InVid, a video forensics tool, VERIFY isolated the frames and was able to confirm the footage was taken from the Syrian city of Idlib, and the same footage can be seen at 1:15 into this YouTube video:

THE QUESTION

Does this video show people welcoming the Taliban into the Afghan capital city of Kabul?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is false.

No, this video was taken from the Afghan city of Kandahar when it fell to the Taliban on Aug. 12.

WHAT WE FOUND

Twitter user @syedsajidbukh16 tweeted on August 14: “The people of Kabul come out from their houses for the welcome of Taliban and gathered on the  entry gate of Kabul. This is different from what media tells us. This shows that peoples of Afghanistan are with Taliban. #IndiaBehindAfghanWar #Kabul #KabulHasFallen

The footage was actually taken from Kandahar, which was one of the largest Afghan cities to fall by August 12, according to the Associated Press. Kandahar is about 300 miles from Kabul. 

The gate seen two seconds into the video is near the Kandahar city gate in the Eid Gah Darwaza area. Photos of the gate were posted to Google Maps as early as 2016.


The VERIFY team works to separate fact from fiction so that you can understand what is true and false. Please consider subscribing to our daily newsletter, text alerts and our YouTube channel. You can also follow us on Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and TikTok. Learn More »

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