The United States announced that it had completed its withdrawal of U.S. service members from Afghanistan on Monday evening. The U.S. had set August 31st as the deadline for their withdrawal from the middle eastern country, ending an occupation that has lasted for 20 years.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday that the U.S. is entering a new phase of “engagement” with Afghanistan after the turbulence of the Taliban’s rise to power and the terrorist attack executed by ISIS-K:
“A new chapter of America’s engagement with Afghanistan has begun. It’s one in which we will lead with our diplomacy. The military mission is over. A new diplomatic mission has begun.”
Blinken then laid out the U.S.’ plans for the immediate future:
“First, we built a new team to help lead this new mission. As of today, we suspended our diplomatic presence in Kabul and transferred our operations to Doha, Qatar, which will soon be formally notified to Congress. Given the uncertain security environment and political situation in Afghanistan, it was the prudent step to take,” he said.
He explained that working out of Doha will allow the U.S. to work more safely and effectively with communicating with the Taliban and monitoring Afghanistan.
The Secretary of State also remarked on the emotional impact of completing the evacuation, which marked the end of the country’s longest war, calling it a “very personal” operation.
There are at least 100 to 200 U.S. citizens remaining in Afghanistan who are currently awaiting evacuation. Residents of Afghanistan with U.S. passports have also been seeking methods of leaving the country.
“Our commitment to them, and to all Americans in Afghanistan, and everywhere in the world, continues,” Blinken declared.
U.S. meets withdrawal deadline in Afghanistan after defensive airstrike
The U.S. has reached this deadline after pressure surrounding withdrawal increased when the terrorist organization ISIS-K attacked the Kabul airport with a suicide bomber last week that left 13 U.S. service members dead. In a speech addressing the attacks, President Joe Biden assured the nation that America would respond swiftly.
The U.S. then launched an airstrike against a prospective ISIS-K suicide bomber who was stationed in a car filled with explosives outside of the Kabul airport.
“U.S. military forces conducted a self-defense unmanned over-the-horizon airstrike today on a vehicle in Kabul, eliminating an imminent ISIS-K threat to Hamid Karzai International airport,” said Captain Bill Urban, a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command.
“We are confident we successfully hit the target.”
A local civilian told CNN that nine members of his family, six of them children, were killed in the airstrike. Residents of the neighborhood witnessed their deaths, and one recounted the scene to CNN:
“All the neighbors tried to help and brought water to put out the fire and I saw that there were 5 or 6 people dead, the father of the family and another young boy and there were two children. They were dead. They were in pieces. There were [also] two wounded.”
The ISIS-K attacker the U.S. was seeking to target was in a vehicle loaded with explosives. It was unclear whether he planned to detonate the vehicle itself as a weapon or go into the airport with a bomb. Regardless, the individual was stopped by the strike before any attack could take place.