As Taliban took control of the airport before dawn on Tuesday following the withdrawal of the last US troops from Afghanistan, ending 20 years of war, the celebratory gunfire echoed across Kabul.
In a news report, news agency Reuters said shaky video footage distributed by the Taliban showed entering the airport after the last US troops took off a minute before midnight, marking the end of a hasty and humiliating exit for Washington and its NATO allies.
“The last US soldier has left Kabul airport and our country gained complete independence,” Taliban spokesman Qari Yusuf said, according to Al Jazeera TV.
The report said US Army shared an image taken with night-vision optics of the last U.S. soldier to step aboard the final evacuation flight out of Kabul – Major General Chris Donahue, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division.
America’s longest war took the lives of nearly 2,500 US troops and an estimated 240,000 Afghans, and cost some $2 trillion, Reuters reported.
As the US troops departed, they destroyed more than 70 aircraft, dozens of armored vehicles and disabled air defenses that had thwarted an attempted a rocket attack on the eve of the US departure.
President Joe Biden, in a statement, defended his decision to stick to a Tuesday deadline for withdrawing US forces. He said the world would hold the Taliban to their commitment to allow safe passage for those who want to leave Afghanistan.
“Now, our 20-year military presence in Afghanistan has ended,” said Biden, who thanked the US military for carrying out the evacuation.
Biden has said: “The United States long ago achieved the objectives it set in ousting the Taliban in 2001 for harboring al Qaeda militants who masterminded the September 11 attacks on the United States”.
The president has drawn heavy criticism from Republicans and some of his fellow Democrats for his handling of Afghanistan since the Taliban took over Kabul earlier this month after a lightning advance and the collapse of the US-backed government.