Kabul / Washington (dpa) – With the withdrawal of its last soldiers from Kabul airport, the United States has ended the military operation in Afghanistan after nearly 20 years.
“I am here to announce the completion of our withdrawal from Afghanistan,” US General Kenneth McKenzie, who heads US Centcom Central Command, said Monday in a video link with Pentagon reporters. It also ends the military evacuation mission of Americans, allies and Afghans seeking protection. The last US military plane took off from Kabul airport one minute before midnight local time. US President Joe Biden set the deadline for the withdrawal of American troops on Tuesday.
Celebrate the Taliban
Islamist Taliban militants, who had seized power in Afghanistan, celebrated the pullout. 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.”
According to the White House on Monday, the United States and its allies on the evacuation mission have brought about 116,700 people to safety since August 14. The Bundeswehr ended its rescue operation on Thursday, France, Spain and Britain followed on Friday and Saturday. But there are still tens of thousands of people in Afghanistan who want to flee the Taliban – most of them Afghans.
UN adopts resolution
The United States and Western partners have repeatedly stressed that there should be the ability to bring people to safety even after the mission is over. On Monday, the UN Security Council increased pressure on Islamist Taliban militants in Afghanistan to respect human rights and allow those who wish to leave the country to pass safely. The most powerful UN body on Monday adopted a resolution with rare unanimity. The decision was taken with 13 votes in favor, Russia and China abstaining. UN resolutions are binding under international law.
In the resolution presented by Britain and France as well as the United States and Ireland, the UN Security Council refers to Taliban commitments that Afghans are free to leave the country at any time. and by any means possible. It is expected that “the Taliban will abide by these obligations and all others,” he said. At the same time, the committee stresses the demand for unhindered humanitarian access and the protection of human rights in Afghanistan, in particular “the rights of women, children and minorities”.
US President Joe Biden announced in April that all US troops would be withdrawn unconditionally from Afghanistan by September 11 at the latest. This date marks the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks that triggered the US-led military operation in Afghanistan. As a result, NATO also announced that it would end its international mission. In July, Biden moved the full withdrawal date to August 31.
After Biden’s announcement, the triumphal advance of the Taliban accelerated, militant Islamists took control of one provincial capital after another – Afghan security forces often offered little or no resistance. On August 15, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled abroad, the Taliban entered the Afghan capital Kabul without a fight and occupied the presidential palace. The US embassy was closed and diplomats fled to the airport.
Attacks on the airport
Kabul airport remained under the control of US troops even after the Taliban came to power. The United States sent an additional 5,000 troops to secure the evacuations. American commanders coordinated with the Taliban. Dozens of Afghans and 13 American soldiers were killed in an attack by the terrorist Islamic State (IS) militia last Thursday outside the airport. ISIS and the Taliban are enemies of each other.
ISIS attacked Kabul airport again on Monday. According to the US government, five rockets were fired at the airport. Major-General William Taylor said three landed outside the site and one was blocked by a missile defense system at the airport. Another rocket struck in the airport area without endangering people or the evacuation mission.
The IS branch, which is active in Afghanistan, claimed responsibility for the missile attack. “Caliphate soldiers” attacked the airport with six Katyusha rockets, IS-Khorasan, as ISIS calls itself in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the “Naschir News” platform reported on Monday.
After the US airstrike: possible civilian casualties
At least ten civilians were reportedly killed in an American airstrike in Kabul on Sunday. Local television station ToloNews reported that there were children among the dead, citing locals. The US government did not rule out the possibility of civilian casualties on Monday. “We cannot deny it now,” Defense Department spokesman John Kirby said. This will be further investigated and the results will be released. The US military announced on Sunday that the operation had succeeded in averting an “immediate threat” to Kabul airport from terrorists.
Taliban leader Haibatullah Achundsada, who has not been seen for years, is in Afghanistan, according to the Taliban. His whereabouts were unknown for years. Achundsada is currently in talks in Kandahar, Taliban spokesman Sabiullah Mujahid said Sunday evening in an interview with state-run Anadolu news agency in Turkey. Islamists are currently discussing the future government of the country.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the first delivery of medical supplies since the Taliban came to power has arrived in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif. A plane made available by the Pakistani government with 12.5 tons of drugs and medical supplies from WHO is the first of a total of three planned aid deliveries.