Friday, 24 September, 2021
E-paper

US completes troops pullout from Afghanistan

KABUL: The United States has pulled all its troops out of Afghanistan, ending its longest war to cries of shame at home and celebratory gunfire from its victorious Taliban enemies in Kabul, reports AFP.

The last of the American troops overseeing a desperate evacuation effort flew out of Kabul airport on Monday night, completing a withdrawal that has raised deep questions about the United States’ status as a superpower.

Taliban fighters quickly swept into the airport and fired weapons into the sky in jubilation, celebrating an astonishing victory for the hardline Islamist movement two decades after US forces invaded Afghanistan and toppled them from power.

However, the Taliban will inherit a devastated country despite the United States spending billions to rebuild it, with deep poverty, drought and Islamic State threats among the many challenges.

For the Afghan people, many are terrified of a repeat of the Taliban’s initial rule from 1996-2001, which was infamous for their treatment of girls and women, as well as a brutal justice system.

The withdrawal came just before the end of an August 31 deadline set by President Joe Biden to call time on America’s longest war—one that ultimately claimed the lives of more than 2,400 US service members.

The early finish followed a threat from the regional offshoot of the Islamic State group, rivals of the Taliban, which was seeking to attack the US forces at the airport.

Thirteen US troops were among more than 100 people killed when an IS suicide bomber late last week attacked the perimeter of the airport, where desperate Afghans had massed in hope of getting on board an evacuation flight.

More than 123,000 people were evacuated from Kabul aboard the US-led airlift operation, which began just after the Taliban swept into the capital on August 14.

Biden said he would address the nation on Tuesday in Washington, as his critics continued to savage him for his handling of the withdrawal.

“We can’t fight endless wars, but the scope & consequence of Biden’s failure here is staggering,” Republican Senator Rick Scott said.

“President Biden has brought great shame on the American people,” added congressman Richard Hudson.

Biden’s top diplomat, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, was able to offer little more than stern words for the Taliban.

“Any legitimacy and any support will have to be earned,” Blinken said, as he announced the United States had suspended its diplomatic presence in Kabul and shifted its operations to Qatar.

In Kabul, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Afghanistan had “gained full independence” with the US withdrawal.

Anas Haqqani, a senior Taliban official, said he was “proud” to witness “these historic moments”.

AFP correspondents in the city heard celebratory gunfire from several Taliban checkpoints, as well as the cheers of fighters manning security posts in the Green Zone.