The last American soldiers left Afghanistan on the night of Monday to Tuesday. They leave the country in the hands of the Taliban, their 20-year-old enemies, after the longest war in US history.
Accompanying this historic moment, gunshots erupted in Kabul, celebrating the Taliban takeover of the airport in the Afghan capital. “We have made history,” said a Taliban official after the departure of American forces.
“The last C-17 (military transport) plane took off from Kabul airport on August 30” at 19:29 GMT (21:29 in Switzerland), just before midnight in Kabul, said General Kenneth McKenzie, who heads the central command. on which Afghanistan depends at a press conference in Washington.
Washington’s military withdrawal was therefore completed 24 hours before the end of the day on August 31, the deadline set by President Joe Biden to end the presence of the American armed forces in this country.
“If the military evacuations are completed, the diplomatic mission to ensure that more US citizens and eligible Afghans wanting to leave, continue,” General McKenzie added.
Giant air bridge
Since August 14, over a period of 18 days, the planes of the United States and its allies have evacuated by a gigantic airlift more than 123,000 civilians from the Hamid Karzai international airport, also specified the general McKenzie.
These risky operations were mourned by a suicide bombing perpetrated on August 26 by the local branch of the Islamic State group, which killed more than 100 people, including thirteen American soldiers.
US forces entered Afghanistan on October 7, 2001 to oust the Taliban from power, due to their refusal to hand over Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden after the September 11 attacks.
Two decades later, the Taliban took advantage of the gradual US withdrawal in recent months and the collapse of Afghan security forces to enter Kabul on August 15 and regain power, after a lightning military offensive not anticipated by Washington.
The return of the Islamists to power forced the West to evacuate in haste from Kabul airport their nationals and Afghans likely to suffer reprisals from the Taliban, in particular for having worked for foreign forces.
While the military withdrawal that began in mid-April went off without a hitch and only a thousand American troops remained in Kabul in preparation for the withdrawal announced on August 31, President Joe Biden had to fire 6,000 soldiers in the Afghan capital to evacuate American diplomats he thought he could leave behind.
The victory of the Taliban and the flight from the country of President Ashraf Ghani caused panic in Kabul. Thousands of Afghans invaded the tarmac at Kabul airport to flee the new Taliban regime, some madly clinging to military planes taking off, only to fall into the void a few minutes later.
The airlift gained momentum over the days until Thursday, when a suicide bombing near the airport, claimed by the Islamic State in Khorasan (IS-K), made more than a hundred dead, including 13 American soldiers.
The US military, which said it thwarted a car bomb attack on Sunday and countered rocket fire at Kabul airport on Monday, remained very discreet on the end of the withdrawal, for security reasons.
Putting an end to America’s longest war, the last American aircraft took off before dawn, far from the cameras.
The United States deplores 2,456 dead and a bill of 2,313 billion dollars in 20 years, according to a study by Brown University. They come out of this war with an image even more tarnished by their inability to predict the speed of the Taliban victory and by their management of evacuations.
Mr. Biden justified his decision to withdraw American troops by his refusal to prolong this war any longer and by the fact that their mission had been accomplished with the death of Bin Laden, killed by American special forces in 2011 in Pakistan.
The Islamists have endeavored since their return to power to display an image of openness and moderation which nevertheless leaves many countries and observers skeptical.
During their previous passage to power between 1996 and 2001, they had imposed an ultra-rigorous version of Islamic law. Women could neither work nor study, thieves and murderers incurred terrible punishments.