© Reuters. US Marines and German service member observe an entrance door during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, August 28, 2021. US Marine Corps / Cpl. Davis Harris / Handout via REUTERS
(Reuters) – US forces were in the final stages of withdrawing from Kabul, ending two decades of costly involvement in Afghanistan as the country’s new Taliban rulers prepared to seize control of the airport.
Just over 1,000 civilians remained at the airport on Sunday to be airlifted before the troops finally left, a Western security official told Reuters.
“We want to make sure that all foreign civilians and those at risk are evacuated today. The forces will begin to fly once this process is finished,” said the official, who is stationed at the airport.
US President Joe Biden has said he will meet his deadline for withdrawing all US troops from Afghanistan by Tuesday. A US official told Reuters on Saturday that fewer than 4,000 troops remained at the airport.
US and allied forces have made a massive two-week effort to transport foreign nationals and tens of thousands of vulnerable Afghans out of the country.
The airlift, one of the largest evacuation operations in history, marked the end of a 20-year Western mission in Afghanistan that began when US-led forces toppled a Taliban government that had provided safe haven for the perpetrators. September 11, 2001. Attacks on the United States.
The final chapter came quickly after the United States and the Taliban reached an agreement to end foreign involvement. The Western-backed government and the Afghan army vanished when Taliban fighters swept through the country and took control of Kabul on August 15.
The United States and its allies have removed about 114,400 people from Afghanistan in the past two weeks, but tens of thousands who want to leave will be left behind.
“We try all options because our lives are in danger. They (Americans or foreigners) must show us a way to save ourselves. We should either get out of Afghanistan or they should provide us with a safe place,” said a woman outside the airport.
A Taliban official told Reuters that the Islamist group had engineers and technicians ready to take over the airport.
“We are awaiting final assent from the Americans to ensure full control over the Kabul airport as both sides aim for speedy delivery,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The last British military flight left Kabul on Saturday night after a chaotic two weeks at the airport that plunged into a bloodbath Thursday when an Islamic State suicide bomb attack outside the airport gates killed at least 90 Afghans and 13 American soldiers.
Biden headed to Dover Air Force Base (NYSE 🙂 on Sunday to honor the members of the US military who died in the attack when their remains were returned to the United States.
A senior US official https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/biden-aide-guarantees-safe-passage-americans-afghanistan-2021-08-29 said the Biden administration expects that the Taliban continue to allow security through for the Americans and others to leave Afghanistan after the US military withdrawal is complete.
“The Taliban have communicated both privately and publicly that they will allow safe passage,” said Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, in a CBS TV interview that will air Sunday.
FINANCIAL AND HUMANITARIAN CRISIS
The collapse of the Afghan government leaves an administrative vacuum that has sparked fears of an economic crisis and widespread hunger.
The prices of staples like flour, oil and rice are rising rapidly and the currency is sinking, with money changers across the border in Pakistan already refusing to accept the Afghani.
On Saturday, officials ordered banks to reopen and imposed a limit on withdrawals of $ 200 or 20,000 Afghanis. Long queues that form outside bank branches of people trying to get money.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid has said that difficulties will disappear quickly once the new administration is up and running.
But with its economy ravaged by decades of war, Afghanistan now faces the end of billions of dollars in foreign aid from Western donors.
Mujahid said the Taliban would announce a full cabinet in the next few days. He has appointed governors and chiefs of police in all but one of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, he said.
He also called on the United States and other Western nations to maintain diplomatic relations after withdrawing. Britain said that should happen only if the Taliban allow safe passage for those who want to leave and respect human rights.
The 1996-2001 Taliban rule was marked by a harsh version of sharia, Islamic law, with many political rights and basic freedoms restricted and women severely oppressed.
Afghanistan was also a hub for anti-Western militants, and Washington, London and others fear it could be again.
While Kabul’s airport has been in chaos, the rest of the city has been generally calm. The Taliban have told residents to hand over government equipment, including weapons and vehicles, within a week.
The Western security official said crowds at the airport gates had subsided after a specific warning from the US government of another attack by ISIS-K, the branch of the Islamic State in Afghanistan that is an enemy of both the West and the Taliban.
The United States said on Saturday that it had killed two ISIS-K militants. Biden had promised to pursue the perpetrators of the blast and said the attack was not the last.
The Taliban condemned https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/taliban-condemn-us-drone-attack-prepare-set-up-new-afghan-government-2021-08-28 drone attack from the US, which took place in Nangarhar province, an eastern area bordering Pakistan.
The airport attack added further fuel to the criticism Biden faced at home and abroad for the chaos. He has defended his decisions, saying that the United States long ago achieved its raison d’être for invading in 2001.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has faced accusations that his government had been “asleep on duty.”
Johnson said that https://www.reuters.com/world/uk/uks-johnson-defends-kabul-airlift-criticism-grows-2021-08-29 Britain would not have wanted to get out of Afghanistan like that. But Richard Dannatt, a former British army chief, said the British government needs to investigate why it was so ill-prepared for Afghanistan’s swift fall to the Taliban.
“It is unfathomable why it would appear that the government was asleep on duty,” Dannat told Times Radio.