Haunting final picture out of Afghanistan

3 months ago 21
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After 20 years and billions of dollars, Afghanistan is once again in the hands of the Taliban with the final US soldier leaving the nation earlier today.

    America’s longest war ended has ended in the dead of night, with a final night-vision photo depicting the final soldier to leave Afghanistan.

    The US Air Force’s final C-17, a massive type of cargo plane that has been used to evacuate more than 100,000 people away from Afghanistan over the past two weeks, carried a crowd of troops as well as the US Ambassador from Kabul just before midnight.

    The final plane departed one minute before the August 31 deadline, set by US President Joe Biden.

    The commander of American military forces on the ground in Afghanistan and Washington’s ambassador there were the last to board the final evacuation flight from Kabul on Monday, the head of US Central Command said.

    “On the last aeroplane out was General Chris Donahue, the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, and my ground force commander there,” General Kenneth McKenzie told reporters at the Pentagon.

    “And he was accompanied by Ambassador Ross Wilson.”

    General McKenzie said they were the last on the ground at Kabul Airport as the United States completed its military withdrawal from Afghanistan.

    “The State and Defence team were, in fact, the last people to step on the aeroplane,” he said.

    The final flight was a quiet end to a frantic effort that saw the US evacuate more than 120,000 people out of Afghanistan amid the harsh rule of the Taliban, which seized power a fortnight earlier.

    The withdrawal from Afghanistan ended in tragedy after Islamic State suicide bombers killed more than 150 Afghans and 13 US soldiers near the international airport.

    Five of the 13 were just 20 years old, meaning they were just infants when al-Qaeda, based in Afghanistan and protected by the Taliban, launched the September 11, 2001 attacks that sparked the conflict.

    It is likely that images of President Joe Biden attending a ceremony for their flag-draped caskets on Sunday at the air force base in Dover, Delaware, will be one of the lasting memories linked to the conflict.


    The US exit depended heavily on trusting the Taliban to provide security around the airport against the Islamic State threat.

    “The Taliban have been very pragmatic and very businesslike,” said General Kenneth McKenzie, head of the US Central command.

    Rather than exit Afghanistan after ousting the Taliban in late 2001, the US took on nation-building tasks which it had not prepared for.

    However the US-backed government in Kabul proved ineffective at consolidating its power and the Taliban persisted as a potent insurgency.

    Afghan civilians and security forces have long taken the brunt of the failures, with tens of thousands killed and many more wounded.

    The end of the Afghanistan war began under US President Donald Trump, who came to office in 2016 promising to end the “forever wars”.

    After initially increasing troops to 16,000, with no lasting impact on the Taliban, he entered negotiations with the insurgents.

    In a February 2020 agreement Washington committed to withdrawing by May 1 this year.

    The Taliban agreed to enter peace negotiations with Kabul, and to not attack American troops in the meantime.

    But they then stepped up their campaign against Afghan government forces, who were immensely dependent on the United States.

    By the time Mr Biden replaced Mr Trump on January 20, the official US troop presence was down to a bare bones 2500.

    He conducted a review and opted to proceed with the drawdown, though negotiating an extra four months, to August 31, for what he hoped would be an orderly pullout.

    Behind the scenes, he and his advisers concluded that the Afghans could not or would not wage the fight themselves.

    “We went to Afghanistan because of a horrific attack that happened 20 years ago. That cannot explain why we should remain there in 2021,” Mr Biden said.

    “It’s time to end the forever war.”

    However Afghanistan fell much quicker than the US expected, with Taliban forces seizing control of the presidential palace on August 15, taking just two weeks to capture the country.

    The Taliban agreed to a ceasefire as long as the US had withdrawn all troops by its promised August 31 deadline.

    Last night cemented that, with the nation now under the control and rule of the Taliban.

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