Taliban proclaim ‘full independence’ after US troops leave Afghanistan
Taliban fighters watched the last U.S. planes disappear into the sky around midnight Monday and then fired their guns into the air, celebrating victory after a 20-year insurgency in Afghanistan that drove the world’s most powerful military out of one of the poorest countries.
The departure of the cargo planes marked the end of a massive airlift in which tens of thousands of people fled Afghanistan, fearful of the return of Taliban rule after they took over most of the country and rolled into the capital earlier this month, reports AP.
“The last five aircraft have left, it’s over!” said Hemad Sherzad, a Taliban fighter stationed at Kabul’s international airport. “I cannot express my happiness in words. … Our 20 years of sacrifice worked.”
In Washington, Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, announced the completion of America’s longest war and the evacuation effort, saying the last planes took off from Kabul airport at 3:29 p.m. EDT — one minute before midnight Monday in Kabul.
“We did not get everybody out that we wanted to get out,” he said.
With its last troops gone, the U.S. ended its 20-year war with the Taliban back in power. Many Afghans remain fearful of them or further instability, and there have been sporadic reports of killings and other abuses in areas under Taliban control despite pledges to restore peace and security.
“American soldiers left the Kabul airport, and our nation got its full independence,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said early Tuesday.