Taliban fighters and their supporters rallied across Afghanistan to celebrate the end of 20 years of foreign military presence on Tuesday, while in Washington, President Biden defended his decision to end the conflict as well as the execution of the evacuation and withdrawal.
The Taliban pledged to implement strict Islamic rule, as ordinary Afghans, many of them bewildered and scared, grappled with the uncertain future ahead. Tens of thousands of Afghans still desperately sought to leave the country by overland routes, and many—particularly in Kabul—viewed the new era in Afghanistan’s bloody history with fear and apprehension as the country’s economic crisis deepened.
Speaking about 24 hours after a senior officer stepped on a C-17 cargo plane to become the last U.S. service member to depart the country, Mr. Biden described the U.S.-led airlift of more than 120,000 Americans, Afghans and others out of the chaos in Kabul in just over two weeks as an “extraordinary success.”
“No nation has ever done anything like it in all of history,” he said. “Only the United States had the capacity and the will and ability to do it, and we did it today.”
Noting 13 U.S. service members were killed in the “mission of mercy,” the president said, “We owe them and their families a debt of gratitude we can never repay, but we should never, ever, ever forget.”