Over and out: US completes withdrawal from Afghanistan

Over and out: US completes withdrawal from Afghanistan

The US government will now conduct diplomacy with the Taliban administration and consular operations out of Doha, Qatar
By Yashwant Raj I Edited by Nadim Siraj

The United States on Monday announced the end of its military mission in Afghanistan, bringing to an end a 20-year presence that had started with the invasion of the country following the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in America.

The US has now left Afghan soil completely, barring an estimated 100-200 Americans still trying to leave the country. The American embassy in Kabul had been shut down some days ago and its diplomats had been operating from the airport in the Afghan capital before being flown out.

The US mission will now conduct diplomacy with the Taliban administration and consular operations out of Doha, Qatar.

The last American military plane left Kabul on Monday night at 11.59pm, local time.

“Our 20-year military presence in Afghanistan has ended,” US President Joe Biden said in a statement shortly after, thanking military personnel for completing the “execution of the dangerous retrograde from Afghanistan as scheduled”.

He will speak more broadly in an address to the nation on Tuesday.

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Until then, the US president said in defence of his decision to end the mission on schedule that it was “the unanimous recommendation” of the military leadership on the ground to end the airlift operations.

“Their view was that ending our military mission was the best way to protect the lives of our troops, and secure the prospects of civilian departures for those who want to leave Afghanistan in the weeks and months ahead,” he said.

Biden is facing unrelenting criticism in the US on two fronts – for leaving Afghanistan that paved the way for the return of the Taliban obliterating the progress made in the past 20 years, and for the chaotic evacuation operations that played out in full view of the world, involving a deadly terror attack carried out by Islamic State at the Kabul airport that claimed close to 200 lives.

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On Aug. 30, the Pentagon said the United States had completed its evacuation efforts in Afghanistan.

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Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid welcomed the completion of the US pull-out on Monday evening, tweeting, “The last American occupier withdrew from (Kabul Airport) at 12 o’clock, and our country gained its full independence.”

There was no further comment from the Taliban on the future of its ties with the US.

“The military mission is over, a new diplomatic mission has begun,” US secretary of state Antony Blinken said in a speech, seen as the Biden administration’s first high-level response to the development.

Blinken has rolled out a seven-point plan for America’s relationship with Afghanistan that revolves around the Taliban government’s ability to deliver on an entire range of assurances; such as not allowing Afghanistan to be used by terrorists to attack the US or its allies, allowing women and girls to study and work; and letting Afghans leave the country if they have the paperwork.

A key part of this plan is the new US mission in Doha. “As of today, we suspended our diplomatic presence in Kabul and transferred our operations to Doha, Qatar, which will soon be formally notified to Congress,” Blinken said. “Given the uncertain security environment and political situation in Afghanistan, it was the prudent step to take.”

Combating terrorism will be an important component of the relationship. “We will stay focused on counterterrorism,” Blinken said. “The Taliban has made a commitment to prevent terrorist groups from using Afghanistan as a base for external operations that could threaten the United States, our allies, including Al-Qaeda, and the Taliban’s sworn enemy, ISIS-K. We will hold them accountable to that commitment.”

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