Taliban takes over Kabul airport after last U.S. troops leave, says efforts underway to restart flights
People's Daily Online
(Xinhua) 08:09, September 01, 2021
-- The Taliban deployed special forces at the Kabul airport on Tuesday hours after the last batch of U.S. troops left Afghanistan.
-- After the U.S. withdrawal from the Kabul airport, the Afghan capital was calm "like other normal days," but a U.S. drone was spotted flying over the city, witnesses in Kabul said.
-- Over 2,400 U.S. troops have been killed in Afghanistan over the past two decades, with 20,000 others wounded, according to the Pentagon. Estimates showed that over 66,000 Afghan troops have been killed, and over 2.7 million people have been forced to leave their homes.
KABUL, Aug. 31 (Xinhua) -- The Taliban deployed special forces at the Kabul airport on Tuesday hours after the last batch of U.S. troops left Afghanistan.
"Security and safety is ensured at the airport," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told reporters at the airport now under the control of Taliban forces.
"We are ready to secure the airport. Everything will be back to normal soon," Mujahid said. "The U.S. troops have left a lot of mess at the airport, so it is a technical issue and will take some time to be solved, and efforts are underway to restart commercial flights as soon as possible."
The final evacuation flight of the U.S. was conducted on the last hours of Monday night, airlifting their military and non-military personnel back home, one day before the Aug. 31 deadline set by U.S. President Joe Biden.
Before the U.S. troops left, they "demilitarized", or damaged, over 70 aircraft, dozens of armored vehicles and disabled an air defense system which reportedly had thwarted Islamic State rocket attacks during the withdrawal.
Celebratory gunfire could be heard across the capital city as the Taliban took control of the airport. Check points had been removed from the road leading to the airport.
Earlier in the day, the Taliban spokesman welcomed the U.S. troops pullout from Afghanistan. "After the U.S. withdrawal, Afghanistan became completely free and independent," he said.
Khoja Wahid, a Kabul resident, said to Xinhua that "The U.S. had withdrawn from Afghanistan after two decades, but the Americans left a mess in our country."
"The U.S. is defeated and it is badly defeated," said the 42-year-old man.
"As I found in media reports early Tuesday that Americans are going to open its embassy to Afghanistan in Qatar. It is showing that the U.S. lost everything in Afghanistan."
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said just hours after the final evacuation flights left Kabul that the United States shifted its diplomatic operations to Qatar.
"As of today, we've suspended our diplomatic presence in Kabul and transferred our operations to Doha, Qatar," the top U.S. diplomat said.
However, spokesman Mujahid made it clear that the Taliban intended to have economic and trade ties with all countries around the world, including the United States.
"Every country can have good relations and political and trade ties with Afghanistan," he said.
Kabul resident Ahmad Fawad told Xinhua that the U.S. claimed they came to Afghanistan to ensure peace and security and uphold human rights, but "you can see their evacuation was not conducted in a responsible manner, as so many people died, including 13 U.S. soldiers."
Fawad referred to the suicide bomb blast and gun firing on Aug. 26, which killed at least 160 Afghans and 13 U.S. troops, and injured nearly 200 others at a gate of the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, when huge crowds were waiting to board evacuation flights.
Talking about the U.S.-led military operation in Afghanistan, Moeed Pirzada, CEO and Editor of Global Village Space, a Pakistani media outlet, said "In the end, they failed because they couldn't come up with a sustainable, intelligent, political solution to Afghanistan."
ISIS-K, a local affiliate of the Islamic State group in Afghanistan, claimed responsibility for the deadly attack.
"Although thousands of Afghan experts and educated people left the country, the young generation is still determined to stay in Afghanistan if peace returns and their safety and security are ensured," Fawad said.
"Now, it is on the United States, their allies, the UN and the countries in the region to help we Afghans building our future."
After the U.S. withdrawal from the Kabul airport, the Afghan capital was calm "like other normal days," but a U.S. drone was spotted flying over the city, witnesses in Kabul told Xinhua.
The main business hub Mandawi in Kabul is open and there is traffic jam in the central part of the city. As the exchange market is still closed, many exchangers and vendors are doing small business on a road outside the market, according to witnesses.
Most banks in Kabul still remain closed on Tuesday with only government and private bank's main branches open.
Salima, a female teacher in Kabul, expressed her hope for lasting peace in the country, welcoming the U.S. pullout from Afghanistan.
"At least there is no more pretext for any armed group to continue war and fighting," she said.
"Americans did not accomplish what they promised to Afghans. Although I am also concerned by the ongoing uncertainty, hopefully the situation will get better eventually, borders will reopen, and the prices are not out of control. It will take a little time to have everything well," she added.
The U.S. Central Command announced Monday that the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan has completed, ending the longest war in U.S. history.
"I'm here to announce the completion of our withdrawal from Afghanistan and the end of the mission to evacuate American citizens, third country nationals and vulnerable Afghans," Kenneth McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, told a news conference in Washington.
"The last C-17 lifted off from Hamid Karzai International Airport on Aug. 30, this afternoon, at 3:29 p.m. East coast time, and the last manned aircraft is now clearing the space above Afghanistan," McKenzie said.
The general said the number of U.S. citizens currently still stranded in Afghanistan is "in the very low hundreds," stressing that the State Department is in charge of assisting those evacuees.
The United States and its allies speeded up their troops' withdrawal from Afghanistan after the Taliban took control of Kabul on Aug. 15. The U.S. allies, including Britain, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Turkey and Australia, have already pulled out their troops from the war-torn country.
Claiming to be in pursuit of Osama bin Laden, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, the U.S.-led military forces invaded Afghanistan and ousted the Taliban within weeks of the terrorist attacks in 2001.
Over 2,400 U.S. troops have been killed in Afghanistan over the past two decades, with 20,000 others wounded, according to the Pentagon. Estimates showed that over 66,000 Afghan troops have been killed, and over 2.7 million people have been forced to leave their homes.
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