The official withdrawal of US troops was yesterday announced by Pentagon where the last U.S. flight out of Afghanistan lifted off from Kabul airport on August 30th, a day before the withdrawal deadline. This puts an end to America’s longest war, spanning two decades costing trillions of dollars, and taking the lives of nearly 2,500 U.S. troops and an estimated 240-thousand Afghans.
Minutes after the last plane lifted off from Kabul airport, the Pentagon said “Tonight’s withdrawal signifies both the end of the military component of the evacuation, but also the end of the nearly 20 year mission that began in Afghanistan shortly after September 11th, 2001. It’s a mission that brought Osama bin Laden to a just end, along with many of his al-Qaeda co-conspirators.”
The United States officially concluded its military mission in Afghanistan on Monday despite resistance by the Taliban groups bringing a turbulent end to the two-decade long war that claimed lives of tens of thousands of people and costed Washington over $2 trillion. According to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the military mission is over. and a new diplomatic mission has begun.
Taliban militants retook Afghanistan at a breakneck pace that stunned U.S. officials and fueled concerns about Washington’s ability to evacuate its citizens and its Afghan allies, many of whom sought to flee in harrowing scenes from the Kabul airport. With the departure of the last U.S. troops, 123,000 people have been evacuated—but tens of thousands of Afghans who aided the United States remain in the country, facing an uncertain future.
In a White House statement, U.S. President Joe Biden praised the military for “their execution of the dangerous retrograde from Afghanistan as scheduled.” An estimated 123-thousand civilians have been airlifted from Afghanistan since August 14th when evacuation operations began in full swing.
President Biden is slated to give a public address on Tuesday about his decision to not extend the August 31st withdrawal deadline despite those still left behind. He said ongoing diplomatic efforts are underway to help some one-hundred Americans and tens of thousands of Afghan partners still in Afghanistan.
Following US Troops departure last night, Taliban fighters’ celebratory gunfire and fireworks lit up the Kabul night sky on Tuesday to celebrate the last U.S. troops leaving Afghanistan describing the U.S. troops’ departure as a “historic moment.
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid wrote on Twitter that Afghanistan is now a “free and sovereign” nation. However, the departure of U.S. troops has many worried about a rapid return to a reign of terror in Afghanistan and the oppression of women as well as ethnic and religious minorities that defined the Taliban rule in the late 1990s.
Many are living in fear with expectations that extremists affiliated with Islamic State could gain a stronger foothold in the country as seen by last week’s suicide bombing at Kabul airport that led to the deaths of nearly 200 Afghans and 13 U.S. service members.
The Biden administration has made it clear to the Taliban militants saying it’s not finished yet. After August 31st, the president promised his administration will make sure there is safe passage for any American citizen, any legal permanent resident still in Afghanistan.
The U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said on Sunday that they will ensure the safe passage of those.
Afghans who helped American soldiers to continue coming out after the 31st of August.”
Many activists and aid groups fear that this safe passage will be difficult even impossible under Taliban rule, especially when the United States initially could not even easily allow U.S. citizens safe transit to the Kabul airport in mid-August, after the Taliban takeover.
Additionally, Afghans who apply for Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) to the United States face a broken system that has left thousands in the lurch. The SIV program for Afghans already has a backlog of 18,000 cases, and the true number of applicants could be as great as 80,000.
Following the U.S. withdrawal, 98 countries including the United States have opened their boarders to receiving Afghans. China and Russia, which have aligned themselves with the Taliban, are missing from the list.
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