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U.S. Kabul embassy a 1989 time capsule

Untouched and frozen in a waning Cold War since staff fled

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Throughout the building, telltale signs telegraph a rapid retreat from the U. S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. Documents litter a diplomat's desk. Bottles of Fanta stand half full. Filing cabinets protrude displaying their contents.

Except for the carpet that the Taliban ripped from the floors, the building sustained no major damage and remained essentially the same way it was on January 30, 1989, when the workers there fled.

CNN's John Vause takes a tour of the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan, still standing as a time capsule after it was abandoned in 1989 (December 18)

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"It's clear the people who left this embassy, left in a hurry. It's not neat. It's not tidy," said John Kincannon, a U.S. Embassy official who entered the building this week when it reopened for the first time in 12 years. "It shows a nice touch of what went through everyone's mind when they were leaving the building."

When the Soviets withdrew from the country, the embassy staff fled the building fearing they could be caught in the crossfire of the Afghan civil war that followed.

In the mission office of the deputy chief, old reports on the Soviet Union -- a reminder of Cold War tensions and the country's presence -- lay on a desk beneath a thick layer of dust.

Other documents remind those who enter the building of who the power brokers were in a different era. The cover of a Time magazine found here pictures former U.S. presidents George Bush and Ronald Reagan and former president of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev.

This week, Americans resurrected another relic from 1989 -- the American flag that flew above the building more than a decade ago. It's from the past, but for Afghans, it's a symbol of a different future.


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