'Full independence', 'historic moments': Taliban after US troops leave
The Taliban have proclaimed “full independence” for Afghanistan and celebratory gunfire rang out in Kabul as the US confirmed its last troops withdrew ahead of a Tuesday deadline following 20 years of war. Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said on Tuesday that “American soldiers left the Kabul airport, and our nation got its full independence.”
Anas Haqqani, a senior Taliban official, said he was "proud" to witness "these historic moments". "We made history again I am very happy that after 20 years of jihad, sacrifices & hardships I have this pride to see these historic moments," Haqqani tweeted.
AFP reported the sound of small arms and heavier machine gun fire continued 45 minutes after the first announcement and that tracer rounds lit up the sky in Afghanistan's Kabul. In another tweet, Haqqani also urged Taliban fighters to avoid celebratory gunfire so as to make sure no innocent bystanders were hurt.
"All the American troops have left Afghanistan, we are very happy -- you can listen to the celebratory fire," Bilal Karimi, another Taliban spokesperson, told AFP by phone.
As the last US planes drew their wheels up around midnight on Monday, Taliban fighters fired their guns into the air, celebrating victory after a two-decade insurgency in Afghanistan. “The last five aircraft have left, it's over! I cannot express my happiness in words. ... Our 20 years of sacrifice worked,” Hemad Sherzad, a Taliban fighter stationed at Kabul's international airport, told the Associated Press.
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General Frank McKenzie, commander of the US Central Command, announced the completion of America's longest war and the evacuation effort. McKenzie said the last planes took off from Kabul airport one minute before midnight on Monday in Kabul and that chief US diplomat in Afghanistan, Ross Wilson, was on the last C-17 flight out.
"There's a lot of heartbreak associated with this departure. We did not get everybody out that we wanted to get out. But I think if we'd stayed another 10 days, we wouldn't have gotten everybody out," McKenzie told reporters.
As the Taliban took over Afghanistan rolled into the capital earlier this month surprising everyone with their swift capture of the country, tens of thousands of people tried to flee Afghanistan, fearful of the return of the hardline Islamist group's rule as well as reprisals.
The Taliban now control all of Afghanistan except for the Panjshir province, where a few thousand local fighters and remnants of the country's collapsed security forces have pledged to resist them. The Taliban have said they are seeking a peaceful resolution there.