Afghanistan: As the last aircraft carrying US troops left Kabul airport, celebratory gunfire echoed across Kabul as Taliban fighters took control of the airport following the withdrawal of the last U.S. troops, ending 20 years of war leaving the Islamic militia stronger than it was in 2001. Reuters reported that shaky video footage distributed by the Taliban showed fighters entering the airport after the last U.S. troops took off a minute before midnight, marking the end of a hasty and humiliating exit for Washington and its NATO allies.
According to Al Jazeera TV, Taliban spokesman Qari Yusuf said “The last U.S. soldier has left Kabul airport and our country gained complete independence”.
The CNN reported that the US Army shared an image taken with night-vision optics of the last US soldier to step aboard the final evacuation flight out of Kabul. The US Department of Defense tweeted a picture of Donahue, boarding an aircraft to depart Kabul. That night-vision photograph will likely become an indelible image tied to the unceremonious and chaotic end to war that lasted about two decades. America’s longest war took the lives of nearly 2,500 U.S. troops and an estimated 240,000 Afghans, and cost some $2 trillion.
Reuters said a contingent of Americans, estimated by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken as under 200 and possibly closer to 100, wanted to leave but were unable to get on the last flights. General Frank McKenzie, commander of the U.S. Central Command, told a Pentagon briefing that the chief U.S. diplomat in Afghanistan, Ross Wilson, was on the last C-17 flight out. “There’s a lot of heartbreak associated with this departure. We did not get everybody out that we wanted to get out. But I think if we’d stayed another 10 days, we wouldn’t have gotten everybody out,” McKenzie told reporters. As the U.S. troops departed, they destroyed more than 70 aircraft, dozens of armored vehicles and disabled air defenses that had thwarted an attempted Islamic State rocket attack on the eve of the U.S. departure.
The Agency further said that President Joe Biden, in a statement, defended his decision to stick to a Tuesday deadline for withdrawing U.S. forces. He said the world would hold the Taliban to their commitment to allow safe passage for those who want to leave Afghanistan. “Now, our 20-year military presence in Afghanistan has ended,” said Biden, who thanked the U.S. military for carrying out the dangerous evacuation. He plans to address the American people on Tuesday afternoon.