The last United States forces left Afghanistan late Monday, ending a 20-year occupation that began shortly after Al Qaeda’s attacks on 9/11, cost over $2 trillion, took more than 170,000 lives and ultimately failed to defeat the Taliban, the Islamist militants who allowed Al Qaeda to operate there.
Five American C-17 cargo jets flew out of Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul just before midnight, the officials said, completing a hasty evacuation that left behind tens of thousands of Afghans desperate to flee the country, including former members of the security forces and many who held valid visas to enter the United States.
“A new chapter of America’s engagement with Afghanistan has begun,” Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said on Monday evening. “It’s one in which we will lead with our diplomacy. The military mission is over.”
But the war prosecuted by four presidents over two decades, which gave Afghans a shot at democracy and freed many women to pursue education and careers, failed in nearly every other goal. Ultimately, the Americans handed the country back to the same militants they drove from power in 2001.
Jubilant Taliban fighters and their supporters reveled in victory as the news became clear. Celebratory gunfire broke out across the city in the predawn hours on Tuesday in Kabul, the arc of tracer rounds lighting up the night sky.
“The last American soldiers departed from Kabul airport, and our country has achieved a full independence, thanks to God,” Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, said on Twitter.
Control of the airport was left in the hands of the Taliban, who said they were still working on
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