For the first time in nearly two decades, on Tuesday the sun rose over Afghanistan and there were no US troops on the ground.
Here’s what happened yesterday:
Biden’s address: President Biden on Tuesday vigorously defended the decision to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan and end the war there, the longest in US history. Biden argued the US “no longer had a clear purpose in an open-ended mission in Afghanistan” and that the US’ withdrawal signaled “ending an era of major military operations to remake other countries.”
As of Monday, more than 122,000 people had been airlifted from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul since July, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters. The total includes 5,400 Americans.
The US withdrawal was rocked by the Taliban’s unexpectedly swift takeover of Afghanistan’s capital, but Biden painted the withdrawal as an “extraordinary success.”
A covert deal: The US military negotiated a secret arrangement with the Taliban that resulted in members of the Islamist group escorting Americans to the gates of Kabul airport as they sought to escape Afghanistan, according to two defense officials. One of the officials also revealed that US special operations forces set up a “secret gate” at the airport and established “call centers” to guide Americans through the evacuation process.
“It worked, it worked beautifully,” one official said of the arrangement.
Americans still in Afghanistan: The President said the US government believes there are about 100 to 200 Americans remaining in Afghanistan, “with some intention to leave.” Most of those that remained are dual citizens and longtime residents that had decided to remain in Afghanistan because of “family roots,” Biden said.
Biden said the US is committed to getting those Americans who want to leave out and that Secretary of State Antony Blinken is leading diplomatic efforts to do so.
A murky future: What comes next for Afghanistan and the Taliban’s efforts to govern the country remains unclear. The United Nations committed to staying in the country to stand “shoulder to shoulder with the Afghan people.” UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned that “a humanitarian catastrophe looms” as “almost half of the population of Afghanistan �� 18 million people — need humanitarian assistance to survive.”