The last evacuation flight heading for America left Hamid Karzai airport in Kabul just before midnight on Monday 30th August, marking the end of an almost 20 year occupation of Afghanistan.

Described as the country’s longest war to date, the presence of the US in Afghanistan began in mid-September 2001 in the aftermath of the September 11th terror attacks. 

In total, 2,461 American service members and civilians were killed and over 20,000 were injured in a war that was overseen by four US presidents, fought over two decades and cost an estimated $2 trillion. 

The list of casualties also includes almost 50,000 Afghan civilians and 70,000 soldiers and police who are estimated to have died since 2001.

This occupation came to an abrupt end this week, however, as Afghanistan was taken over by the Taliban after a shockingly rapid advance across the country lasting only a few days. 

Following the withdrawal, Taliban fighters fired celebratory gunfire which was heard across the city before moving quickly to seize the airport. 

Fighters were seen exploring the airport, including a former US hangar with aircraft apparently left behind, and taking over its facilities. 

Some Taliban fighters were wearing discarded US army uniforms and equipment. 

The end of the occupation on Monday came after a deadly few days in the capital marked with a suicide bombing at the airport which left at least 170 Afghan civilians hoping to flee the country and over a dozen US service members dead. 

This was followed by a US drone strike, days later, against a vehicle thought to be carrying more ISIS- K militants in Kabul which led to the death of another 10 civilians, including seven children. 

The Pentagon has announced an investigation into the incident, which was reportedly  based on false information. 

The last flight took off three days after the attack and was part of a massive effort, which began on August 14 soon after the Taliban took control of the country, in which the US and coalition aircraft evacuated more than 123,000 civilians. 

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken called the evacuation a “massive military, diplomatic and humanitarian undertaking” and described it as one of the most challenging the US has ever carried out. 

However, not all who wanted to leave were evacuated.

More than 100 Americans remain in Afghanistan following the August 31th deadline, although the Taliban have pledged to allow anyone with valid documents safe exit out of the country going forward. 

Of what to expect in the future, Blinken said that the Taliban needed to earn its legitimacy and would be judged on how truthfully it fulfills its obligations to allow citizens to travel freely from and to the country and protect the rights of Afghan people, particularly women.  

Photo by Andre Klimke via unsplash

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