Wednesday 9/29/21
WAR FINISHED

Last US troops leave Afghanistan after 20 years, ending evacuations

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said the country has now achieved "full independence"
August 26, 2021 - Kabul, Afghanistan - U.S. Marines with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force - Crisis Response - Central Command, assist with security at an Evacuation Control Checkpoint (ECC) during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 26. U.S. service members are assisting the Department of State with a non-combatant evacuation operation (NEO) in Afghanistan. (photo by Staff Sgt. Victor Mancilla) (Credit Image: U.S. Marines/ZUMA Press Wire Service/ZUMAPRESS.com Photo: U.S. Marines/ZUMA Press Wire Service/dpa
US Marines assist with security at an Evacuation Control Checkpoint. Photo: Sgt. Victor Mancilla/US Marines/dpa.

The US confirmed Monday its final troops had left Kabul, bringing to an end a tense evacuation mission and a 20-year war in Afghanistan.

The US and coalition partners used Kabul airport to evacuate some 122,000 people since Taliban militants reconquered the country just over two weeks ago.

General Kenneth McKenzie, the head of US Central Command, announced the departure of the final US troops to reporters via videolink. Washington had set a withdrawal deadline for Tuesday, August 31.

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said that the last US troops left Afghanistan at about midnight local time and the country has now achieved "full independence."

"We are making history again, the US and NATO's 20-year occupation of Afghanistan ends tonight," tweeted Anas Haqqani, a high-ranking member of the Taliban and senior leader of the Afghan guerrilla insurgent group Haqqani network.

New York Times reporter Matthieu Aikins tweeted he could see what appeared to be celebratory gunfire from the Taliban amid quiet skies.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington's diplomatic presence had been suspended and transferred to Doha, Qatar.

Some 6,000 US citizens had been evacuated or left Afghanistan, and 200 Americans, likely closer to 100, are believed to still in Afghanistan and want to leave, Blinken said.

Blinken said the US would "hold the Taliban to its pledge to let people freely depart Afghanistan."

Though US President Joe Biden lauded what he called "the largest airlift in US history" over the past 17 days in Kabul, concern has shifted to those left behind, including the thousands of Afghans who worked with Western powers and could face retaliation from the Taliban.

Blinken said the US would "hold the Taliban to its pledge to let people freely depart Afghanistan."

Negotiation

"We are also going to negotiate very hard, very aggressively, to get our Afghan partners out," McKenzie said.

"The military phase of this operation has ended. The diplomatic sequel to that will now begin," the general said.

Countries around the world have relied on the thousands of US troops deployed to secure the airport, and most ended their airlift operations ahead of the final US departure.

Germany and France are among the other countries involved in discussions on how to continue getting people out of Afghanistan after the end of the airlift.

The UN Security Council passed a resolution on Monday to increase pressure on the Taliban to grant Afghans safe passage out of Kabul.

Thirteen of the 15 nations on the council voted in favour of the resolution that also demands the UN have unhindered humanitarian access to country. Veto powers Russia and China abstained.

Haven for terrorists

The resolution put forward by Britain, France, the US and Ireland calls for Afghanistan not to become a haven for terrorists and tells the Taliban to uphold the rights of women, children and minorities.

There was no direct mention of a secure UN zone in Kabul, which was floated by French President Emmanuel Macron over the weekend.

The security situation of Afghanistan deteriorated after the US-led international troops started withdrawing their forces in May following a deal between the Taliban and Washington in Qatar last year, aimed at ending the longest war in American history.

The final days of the mission grew more tense after a suicide bomb attack on Kabul airport last week killed 13 US troops and perhaps as many as 200 Afghans.

On Monday in Kabul as many as five rockets were fired at the airport, activating US missile defence systems. One rocket landed at the air field but did not affect the evacuation mission, according to the US military.

Islamic State Khorasan, or ISIS-K, claimed responsibility for both attacks.

The US on Sunday said it successfully hit an explosives-packed car belonging to ISIS-K that was headed to the airport.

The Pentagon said it was investigating media reports, including from the BBC and CNN, that as many as 10 civilians, more than half of them children, were killed in the drone strike.

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