By Andrew Quilty and Matthew Cole, The Intercept

BEFORE THE TALIBAN took control of Kabul in August, the U.S.-backed Afghan commandos known as Zero units were the ghosts of the Afghan battlefield. Along with their CIA advisers, they were feared and, in recent years, virtually invisible.

But in the hectic, violent weeks between the Taliban victory and the U.S. military withdrawal, fighters belonging to a Zero unit known as 01 — and other linked militias known collectively as National Strike Units, or NSUs — helped the Americans secure Hamid Karzai International Airport. Firing warning shots day and night, 01 fighters sought to corral and search crowds of Afghans and foreigners trying to enter the airport to board evacuation flights, much as Taliban fighters struggled to maintain control at other airport entrances around the same time.

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