Final Troops Leave Afghanistan
Twenty years ago, the U.S. military invaded Afghanistan, looking to bring the culprit responsible for the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon to justice. This began a war that would go on for two decades, killing over two thousand American troops. Now, that war is over, and the U.S. military has completed its exit from Afghanistan.
The withdrawal effort began after the Taliban moved to seize control of Afghanistan, winning battle after battle until President Ashraf Ghani fled the country and they were able to capture the presidential palace. This happened around August 15, and it was then that President Biden announced the plan to leave. Originally, all U.S. military personnel were set to leave by September 11, but later President Biden moved that deadline up to August 31.
Within the two weeks U.S. personnel were given, the effort to get U.S. citizens, citizens of Ally nations and Afghan allies out of the country kicked into high gear. Since August 14, about 120,000 of these people were successfully evacuated. This included about 5,400 U.S. citizens and their families living in Afghanistan who wished to escape after the Taliban takeover. According to Department of State Secretary Antony Blinken, fewer than 200 Americans seeking evacuation remain in Afghanistan. According to US Marine Corps General Kenneth McKenzie, the reason for the remaining Americans was purely because they were unable to arrive at the airport in time, saying, “Although we continue the outreach and would have been prepared to bring them on until the very last minute, but none of them made it to the airport.” McKenzie also noted that there were no Americans on the last five flights out of Afghanistan.
The effort to get these people evacuated was not an easy one either. Beyond the logistical problems they faced trying to get everyone processed before getting them out of the country, they also had to deal with attacks and Taliban harassment. Despite their constant promise to let Afghan and American citizens travel to Hamid Karzai International Airport to leave in peace, there were constant reports of the Taliban stopping citizens at checkpoints and breaking that commitment. This was not just a commitment to the U.S. either. It was one that the Taliban made to the UN, as many UN countries were striving for the same goals as the ones the U.S. were looking to achieve. Then, on Thursday, a suicide bombing outside one of the airport’s gates killed 13 U.S. service members and dozens of Afghans seeking evacuation. This attack was later blamed on ISIS-K, raising the concern that terrorism might find a home in Afghanistan as the U.S. withdraws its troops. If you want to see a full list of the service members that lost their lives from that attack, you can read that here. After that attack, the U.S. launched their own strike in retaliation, hoping that it would prevent any further action from any group trying to halt the evacuation proceedings. However, that was not the end of it, as on Monday, five rockets were fired at the airport. Luckily the rockets were taken down by a counter rocket system. There were no casualties from that attack.
So now that the U.S. has officially pulled out of Afghanistan, the question that has been going around has become, what happens next? Well according to Secretary Blinken, all diplomatic activity has ended in Afghanistan, with most of the U.S. diplomats out of the country at this point. However, he also made it clear that diplomatic efforts would continue. The location where these efforts will now be focused is Doha, Qatar. At this point in time, there is no plan to move diplomatic efforts back into Afghanistan either. Only time will tell what effect these diplomatic efforts will have.
We are still likely to hear more on this situation, including when President Biden gives remarks on Tuesday afternoon. Despite the initial evacuation process being completed, it is likely that more efforts will be taken to improve conditions within Afghanistan. The UN has already made it clear that the only way they will accept the Taliban as a government power is if they recognize equal rights for women, girls and minority groups. For all of the latest on the Afghanistan effort and more, head over to our Twitter page, and give us a follow.