In the hours after the United States completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Taliban took to the Kabul airport to declare victory in the 20-year war. The video above shows the scene at the airport.
“First I congratulate the whole nation because we have achieved our independence and we were able to force the Americans to leave after 20 years of jihad and sacrifice,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said from the Kabul airport tarmac. “This independence belongs to the whole nation and all our people were involved in it, they have suffered hardship in these 20 years, I congratulate them all.”
Mujahid blasted the U.S. for its decision to go to war with the Taliban in the first place, calling it “reckless”.
“They should have talked to us about the problems that happened in 2001, and there was no need for war. Unfortunately, the U.S. officials used arrogance at the time,” Mujahid said. “They did not consider the outcome of their work, and the result was that now they were defeated, and the Afghan people won the battlefield and liberated their country.”
Despite this, looking ahead to the future Mujahid said, “We want to make better our relations with the United States in the future through diplomatic means”.
Later in the day Tuesday, President Joe Biden defended his decision to not extend the Aug. 31 deadline to remove all U.S. troops. The video above also shows clips from his speech.
“This decision about Afghanistan is not just about Afghanistan. It’s about ending an era of major military operations to remake other countries,” President Biden said. “The fundamental obligation of a president, in my opinion, is to defend and protect America, not against threats of 2001, but against the threats of 2021 and tomorrow.”
Biden also responded to those who argue the U.S. should’ve start evacuations sooner. “Imagine if we’d begun evacuations in June or July, bringing in thousands of American troops and evacuating more than 120,000 people in the middle of a civil war,” Biden said. “There still would have been a rush to the airport. A breakdown in confidence and control of the government and it still would have been a very difficult and dangerous mission.”
Despite the withdrawal of U.S. troops being completed, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Tuesday the mission in Afghanistan is not over. “It’s just that it has shifted from a military mission to a diplomatic mission,” Sullivan said.
Part of that mission is getting the rest of of the Americans who want to leave Afghanistan out. On Monday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the number of Americans left behind was less than 200, “likely closer to 100.” On Tuesday Sullivan said the U.S. had “considerable leverage” over the Taliban to get those Americans out. In his Monday statement, President Biden said he asked Blinken to coordinate with international partners to hold the Taliban to their promise of letting Americans and others who want to leave do so safely.