The United States on Monday completed the withdrawal of its soldiers from Afghanistan, ending a 20-year-long war that began after a terrorist attack in New York city on September 11, 2001. US President Joe Biden had set an August 31 deadline for troops to exit Afghanistan.
The Taliban marked the withdrawal with celebratory gunfire early on Tuesday as the insurgent group members called the event a watershed moment, according to AFP.
“Congratulations to Afghanistan... this victory belongs to us all,” the insurgent group’s spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told media at the Kabul airport’s runway. He added that the victory of the Taliban in Afghanistan was a “lesson for other invaders”.
Thousands had died in the attacks at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon in Washington and a Pennsylvania field in 2001. After the 9/11 attacks, the US had launched what it called a global war on terrorism against insurgent groups, under the presidency of George W Bush.
The US Department of Defense on Monday announced that the last American soldier to leave Kabul was Major General Chris Donahue.
Biden thanked the American personnel for their service and hailed the execution of the “largest airlift” in the country’s history. The president said that he would address his country on Tuesday.
“No other military in the world could accomplish what we and our allies and partners did in such a short span of time,” a statement by Defense Secretary Lloyd J Austin III said. “That is a testament not only to our forces’ capabilities and courage but also to our relationships and the capabilities of our allies and partners.”
Austin, however, expressed grief about the 13 soldiers who were killed after an attack by the Islamic State Khorasan Province at one of the Kabul airport gates during the evacuation mission on August 26.
The US defense secretary added that the country had evacuated over 1,23,000 people from Afghanistan. “Now, the end of this operation also signals the end of America’s longest war,” Austin said. “We lost 2,461 troops in that war, and tens of thousands of others suffered wounds, seen and unseen.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that “a new chapter has begun”, with the end of the military operation. He said that now a diplomatic mission would begin, with the American operations being moved from Kabul to Qatar, The Guardian reported.
“The Taliban now face a test,” said US Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad. “Can they lead their country to a safe and prosperous future where all their citizens, men and women, have the chance to reach their potential? Can Afghanistan present the beauty and power of its diverse cultures, histories, and traditions to the world?”
Meanwhile, US military Central Command head General Kenneth McKenzie said that 73 aircraft at the Kabul airport were “demilitarised,” or rendered useless, so that they cannot be operated by anyone, reported AFP.
“Most of them are non-mission capable to begin with,” he said. “But certainly they will never be able to be flown again.”
McKenzie also said that the US military had left behind 70 Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected, or MRAP, armored tactical vehicles, 27 Humvees and a Counter Rocket, Artillery and Mortar, or C-RAM, weapon system. The American official added that they had all been disabled.
Taliban celebrates exit of US troops
The Taliban marched to the Kabul airport on Tuesday to celebrate the exit of American troops from Afghanistan, AP reported.
“Afghanistan is finally free,” Hekmatullah Wasiq, a top official of the insurgent group, told AP. “The military and civilian side [of the airport] are with us and in control. Hopefully, we will be announcing our Cabinet. Everything is peaceful. Everything is safe.”
Wasiq added: “People have to be patient. Slowly we will get everything back to normal. It will take time.”
Meanwhile, Mujahid said that Afghanistan had “gained full independence” with the exit of the American military, reported AFP. Senior.
The spokesperson said that the Taliban wants to maintain a good diplomatic relationship with the US and the rest of the world.
Expect Taliban to stand by its commitments: UNSC
The United Nations Security Council on Monday adopted a resolution demanding that Afghanistan is not be used as a shelter for terrorists or to threaten any country, reported PTI.
The resolution, adopted under India’s presidency, said that it expected the insurgent group to stand by its commitments regarding the safe and timely evacuation of Afghans and all other foreigners.
The resolution gained sponsorship from France, the United Kingdom and the US. Thirteen countries voted in favour of it, and no one opposed the resolution.
Russia and China, who have veto powers, abstained from voting.
The council also noted the “dangerous security situation” around the Kabul airport in view of the attack last week.
The resolution said that the Security Council “expresses concern that intelligence indicates further terrorist attacks may take place in the area”. It also called for all parties involved to take steps to strengthen security and to prevent further casualties.