Washington / Kabul (dpa) – This is an unusual way of announcing the end of America’s longest war. The Commander-in-Chief of the United States Armed Forces, President Joe Biden, did not do it himself on Monday, but sent one of his main generals to the front.
In a short video link with Pentagon reporters, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the US commander responsible for the region, uttered this momentous phrase Monday afternoon Washington time: “I am here to announce the completion of our withdrawal. of Afghanistan “. This means that the deficit military operation by the United States and its allies in the country in crisis has ended after nearly 20 years – as has the military evacuation mission of the past two weeks.
Afghanistan is once again heading for an uncertain future. And it is not known what will happen to those who could not get a place on one of the military evacuation leaflets.
At one minute before midnight Kabul time on Monday evening, according to McKenzie, the last US military C-17 aircraft took off from the airport in Kabul, the Afghan capital. The Americans had previously remained silent on exactly how the technically sensitive withdrawal of their very last soldiers would unfold. The security situation was precarious until the end: shortly before the withdrawal, the Afghan branch of the terrorist IS militia fired rockets at Kabul airport.
Last American soldier
It was only after the last US military machine left Afghan airspace that the Pentagon released a photo of the “last US soldier” to leave Afghanistan. The photo shows – taken with a night vision device – how Major General Chris Donahue climbs the last C-17.
McKenzie pointed out that there was no longer a single American soldier in Afghanistan. But he admitted that it had not been possible to evacuate all the people who had been taken to safety. “We didn’t get everyone out we wanted to get out.” You had the opportunity to evacuate more US citizens until the last moment. But some would not have arrived at the airport.
Diplomacy instead of the army
According to estimates by the US State Department, there are still between 100 and 200 Americans in Afghanistan who wish to leave the country. Biden had promised all American citizens who wanted to leave Afghanistan to get them out of Afghanistan. Once the troop withdrawal is over, the president and his foreign minister Antony Blinken assured that the US government will continue to do whatever rather than military means. But how exactly this should happen is unclear.
After the Taliban came to power in mid-August, the United States and its international partners began the military evacuation mission. McKenzie said that during this period, the US military alone transported more than 79,000 civilians from Kabul, including about 6,000 Americans. The United States and its allies have taken a total of more than 123,000 people out of the country. But there are still tens of thousands of people in Afghanistan who want to flee the Taliban – most of them Afghans.
Ambassador now in Qatar
Blinken stressed: “The military mission is over. A new diplomatic mission has started. “However, this can be controlled remotely. For with the withdrawal of American troops, the Americans also renounced their diplomatic presence in Afghanistan. On board the last military machine was Ross Wilson, the Former US Ambassador to Afghanistan Blinken said the US has now relocated diplomatic activities to Qatar’s capital, Doha.
The Taliban responded with jubilation to the US withdrawal. Taliban spokesman Sabiullah Mujahid wrote on Twitter that the country has now achieved full independence. Senior Taliban member Anas Hakkani tweeted: “We are writing history again. The 20-year occupation of Afghanistan by the United States and NATO ended tonight. God is big.”
20 years of war
Twenty years ago, foreign troops under US command entered Afghanistan – in response to terrorist attacks by al Qaeda terrorists on September 11, 2001. The international deployment then led to the overthrow of the Taliban government, the shelter from al-Qaeda terrorists had granted. The military operation swallowed up huge sums of money, tens of thousands of civilians and Afghan security forces were killed, as well as several thousand international troops, including 2,461 Americans. McKenzie pointed out on Monday that the cost of the mission was high.
Biden initially only commented in a written statement in which he again defended his controversial decision to step down. The president did not announce an address to the nation until Tuesday. It is telling that the Commander-in-Chief did not announce such a historic moment – the end of an extremely painful mission for the United States that spanned the terms of four presidents. Biden faces stiff criticism due to the chaotic withdrawal. The debacle in Afghanistan is the biggest foreign policy crisis of his presidency to date.
In April, the Democrat announced that he would unconditionally withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan no later than September 11 – the 20th anniversary of the 2001 attacks. After Biden’s announcement, NATO announced that it would end the entire international operation in Afghanistan. In July, Biden finally moved the full withdrawal date to August 31.
In recent weeks, events in Afghanistan have multiplied: after Biden’s announcement, the Taliban’s triumphal march accelerated rapidly. Islamist militants have taken control of one provincial capital after another – Afghan security forces have often offered little or no resistance. On August 15, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled abroad and the Taliban entered Kabul without a fight. The US embassy was closed and diplomats fled to the airport.
It was from there that the Americans and their allies ended their breathless evacuation mission – protected by several thousand additional American troops who were temporarily sent to Kabul. Last Thursday, dozens of Afghans and 13 US soldiers were killed in an IS attack hostile to the Taliban. America’s longest war ended in a particularly disastrous way.