America’s two-decade war in Afghanistan has come to an end. The US Army has closed its airlift with Kabul and has left the capital controlled by the Taliban, who have celebrated it with shots in the air.
The Kabul assault: what happened in Afghanistan and why it happened so quickly
This August 31 expired the deadline set by Joe Biden for the withdrawal of US troops, which the US president decided to maintain despite pressure from European allies to extend the calendar. The Pentagon had been silent on final operations and had not specified when the departure would be completed.
Just a few hours before that end date, this Monday morning, the US Army had intercepted rockets aimed at the airport in the Afghan capital, the launch of which has been attributed by ISIS. A day earlier, US authorities reported a drone bombardment of an ISIS vehicle posing an “imminent” threat. As published The Washington Post citing relatives of those killed, the attack caused 10 civilian deaths and the Pentagon says it is investigating it.
Throughout these days, the US has warned that more attacks such as last Thursday were possible, when a devastating attack at the airport gates killed dozens of Afghan civilians and 13 US military personnel, making it the most recent day. deadly for US troops in Afghanistan in more than a decade. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby had repeated on Monday that the threat level was “real”, “active” and “specific” to a possible attack.
Biden promised revenge against the perpetrators of the attack, who he assured that he will persecute them and make them pay. On Saturday, the Pentagon announced an attack that killed two alleged “high-profile” ISIS members. For some analysts, the violence experienced in the Afghan capital in recent days underscores the dangers that lie ahead for a country already plagued by insecurity and a humanitarian crisis.
The last evacuations
The allied countries have concluded their operations in recent days, including the United Kingdom, France and Spain. The pace of evacuations from Kabul had slowed down from previous days, but operations have continued. This Monday, a steady stream of US military aircraft continued to arrive and leave the airport.
The goal of the United States evacuation has increasingly focused on getting the last of the Americans out. On Sunday, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said there were 300 Americans still waiting to be evacuated from Kabul. The Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, Gen. Hank Taylor, had said the focus was on the safety of US troops who were still in Kabul, but who still had the ability to evacuate Afghans to the end.
The remaining US diplomats in Afghanistan they began to leave the country this Monday. The United States has said that it has no intention of having a permanent diplomatic presence in the country as of September 1, after the evacuations and their withdrawal are complete.
In the last hours of the US military presence, the scenes of chaos and despair that have occurred at the airport since the Taliban victory with thousands of people trying to leave the country on evacuation flights have given way to others of calm and resignation. This Monday, according to The New York Times, A few hundred people were waiting outside the airport perimeter, but the Taliban guarding the area kept them at a significant distance. According to The Associated Press, the Taliban reinforced their security cordon around the airport after the attack, evicting large numbers of people who wanted to flee.
According to the White House, approximately 116,700 people have been evacuated from Kabul since August 14, a figure that includes evacuees from countries other than the US. But it is feared that many thousands of vulnerable Afghans working for US and NATO missions have been left behind, and testimonies are common. of fear, pain and rage among those who say they feel abandoned after the end of international evacuations.
This Sunday, the US State Department issued a statement signed by about 100 countries, as well as by NATO and the European Union, saying they had received “guarantees” from the Taliban that people with documentation could leave once US troops leave Kabul and promise that they will continue to issue the necessary documents for these people to leave Afghanistan.
The Taliban have said they will allow normal travel once the US has completed its withdrawal and they take control of the airport. However, it remains unclear how they will manage the airport and which commercial airlines will start flying, given continuing security concerns.
Ahead of a Security Council meeting held on Monday, France and the United Kingdom have proposed the creation of a safe area at the airport under UN control that allows evacuations from Afghanistan to continue, French President Emmanuel announced on Sunday. Macron. In it, a resolution on Afghanistan was approved – unanimously – focused on the safe departure of Afghans from the country, humanitarian aid and the rejection of terrorism, which counted the abstention of China and Russia and was criticized for its weak condemnation of human rights violations. For France, one of the countries that sponsored the resolution together with the United Kingdom, the United States and Ireland, “the eyes of all Afghans are looking at this Council and they expect clear support from the international community and this lack of unity is a disappointment for us. and for them, “said the representative of this country, Nathalie Estival-Broadhurst, according to Efe.
This Monday, a plane carrying medicines and medical supplies from the World Health Organization (WHO) landed at noon in Afghanistan. It is the first shipment of medical supplies to land in the country since it came under the control of the Taliban. “Humanitarian agencies, such as the WHO, have faced enormous difficulties in recent weeks in sending life-saving supplies to Afghanistan due to security and logistical constraints,” the agency explained in a statement, calling “urgently” for a “Reliable” humanitarian airlift.
A “much bigger” crisis begins
Once the air evacuations have come to an end, the worst-case scenario handled by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is that up to half a million Afghans could flee their country by the end of the year, especially the neighboring countries, according to what the number two of the agency, Kelly Clements, explained at a press conference on Friday.
“Although we have not seen large outflows of Afghans at this time, the situation inside Afghanistan has evolved faster than anyone expected,” said clemens, who indicated that in recent days there has been a “small rebound” in the flow to Pakistan. The agency has reiterated that those who flee must be able to exercise their right to seek international protection and borders must be kept open to them for this purpose.
“Those who rushed to find a place on the evacuation flights from Kabul airport are the same ones who may approach our borders in the coming weeks and months. We have shown our compassion and solidarity with the Afghans in recent days. Let us continue to do so. “, said Monday the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi.
Grandi has warned that, when the images of the people crowded in the Kabul airport fade from the screens, a “much greater” humanitarian crisis will begin in a country where 39 million people live.
Some 3.5 million people have already been displaced by violence within Afghanistan, more than half a million since the beginning of 2021. Millions of people urgently need help. “Some Afghans remain internally displaced, while others are beginning to find their way back home after the fighting. All depend on humanitarian programs that need to be scaled up, and quickly.”
Many people are struggling because living conditions have hardened and food prices have risen. Some banks opened in Kabul on Sunday and long lines formed outside their doors.
Despite promises by the Taliban for a “general amnesty”, many Afghans continue to fear for their safety, or of further instability. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet says she has received “credible reports” of serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses taking place in many areas under effective Taliban control, including , summary executions of civilians and hors de combat members of the Afghan national security forces, as well as restrictions on women’s rights.
“As of September 1, we will follow the situation of people who are at risk for their work and for their profile of being persecuted by the Taliban, and asking for legal and safe ways so that they can leave Afghanistan”, Olatz Cacho, spokesperson for Amnesty International Spain, tells elDiario.es. “We are not going to lose sight of the situation of the people who have left Afghanistan once the media spots are turned off so that they have international protection and a dignified welcome.”
End of 20 years of war
The last American soldiers have withdrawn from the country, ending America’s longest military conflict, which began 20 years ago in retaliation for the September 11, 2001 attacks and ends with the Taliban back in power.
“The balance, globally, is incredibly regrettable,” says Cacho. “Since the very high number of civilian victims of the last 20 years, the absolute impunity with which all armed groups, the Afghan Army and foreign forces in the country have committed human rights violations in the country without any consequence, for not mention that until a few days ago, Afghan asylum seekers continued to be returned, especially from Iran, but also from European countries. ”
“The few advances that have been made in the country, the participation of women in government for example, it is very difficult for them to continue,” criticizes the AI representative. “And the last days it is the same trend, a lot of lime and a little bit of sand: we saved the efforts of countries to remove people from there in a very complicated context and welcome them in other countries, but the rest is all lime: from the lack of planning in the withdrawal that has produced that not only have many people remained on the ground who are manual asylum cases, to the next increase in deaths from terrorist attacks “.