With The Americans Gone, Afghanistan Enters Its Uncertain, Taliban-Led Future

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Taliban fighters stand guard in front of the Hamid Karzai International Airport after the U.S. withdrawal in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Khwaja Tawfiq Sediqi/AP


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Khwaja Tawfiq Sediqi/AP


Asia
The Final U.S. Military Plane Has Left Afghanistan As America’s Longest War Ends

The Taliban celebrates victory

Hours after the U.S. departure that ended America’s longest war, celebratory gunfire erupted across the country as Taliban fighters took control of Hamid Karzai International Airport — long a potent symbol of Washington’s power.

The last flight out of Kabul, which met the Biden administration’s Aug. 31 deadline for complete withdrawal of U.S. forces, was described as a historical moment by the Taliban.

«Congratulations to Afghanistan,» the group’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told reporters at a news conference at the airport. «This victory belongs to us all.»

«We liberated our country from a great power,» he said after the last U.S. C-17 had left and Taliban fighters dressed in tactical gear and sporting firearms rode into airport in trucks.

The Taliban’s rapid advance on Kabul as U.S.-trained Afghan security forces collapsed forced a chaotic and deadly final exit, with U.S. forces at the airport scrambling to evacuate American soldiers and contractors, as well as tens of thousands of Afghans desperate to leave country.

A chaotic U.S. withdrawal

Last week, a suicide bomber who slipped in among the throngs of people crowding outside the airport killed 13 U.S. service members and nearly 200 Afghans. The Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K) claimed responsibility. In retaliation, the U.S. launched a drone strike on individuals it says were responsible for planning the attack. In a subsequent drone strike, the U.S. targeted a vehicle filled with explosives. Ten Afghan civilians, including seven children, were also reportedly killed.

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A man weeps during a mass funeral for members of a family was killed in a U.S. drone strike, in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Monday.

Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times via Getty Imag


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Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times via Getty Imag


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One Of These Men Is Likely To Be Afghanistan’s Next Ruler

It is still not clear who will emerge as the leader of Afghanistan, but many believe the day-to-day administration of government will be handled by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.

Baradar, who is technically the number two leader after Supreme Commander Haibatullah Akhundzada, has been the public face of the Taliban in recent years. He helped negotiate the U.S. withdrawal in Doha with then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Not much is known about Baradar, but he is a veteran of the war against the Soviet Union in the 1980s and also against U.S. forces following the 2001 invasion.

  • Taliban
  • Afghanistan

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