By Rhina Guidos
WASHINGTON (CNS) – As August 30 ended in the United States and a new day began in a different time zone in Kabul, Afghanistan on August 31, 2021, the U.S. Central Command released a green tinted photo of a soldier about to board a cargo plane, a photo coda to seal the historic moment that ended nearly two decades of US military presence in Afghanistan.
While many were quick to call this the “end” of America’s longest war, it is too early to say what involvement, if any, could continue in the now Taliban-controlled nation as some American citizens remain there. .
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said “less than 200 and possibly over 100” US citizens are still in Afghanistan.
“We didn’t get everyone out we wanted,” said General Kenneth McKenzie, chief of the US Central Command, announcing the August 30 withdrawal from the United States, reminding reporters listening to it that it was was August 31 in Afghanistan, respecting the date the United States had set itself for withdrawal.
But there are American citizens in the country, he said, who, due to family or other ties, did not want to leave Afghanistan. Others were unable to get to the airport in time for the last American plane.
The administration of President George W. Bush sent troops to Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 attacks that killed 2,996 people on American soil, trying to identify al-Qaida militants who were planning the hijacking. planes, including Osama bin Laden, who was believed to be inside and outside Afghanistan, hiding with the help of the Taliban.
US troops remained there under previous administrations from both political parties and in October 2020 President Donald Trump tweeted that he would withdraw US troops from Afghanistan by Christmas. President Joe Biden continued with the plan but with a different timeline. However, analysts have blamed the previous four administrations – from George W. Bush to Biden – with the unfolding drama.
General McKenzie said the U.S. military had evacuated 79,000, including 6,000 U.S. citizens, from Kabul airport since August 14, after the collapse of the Afghan army following the impending withdrawal of troops and troops. American subcontractors.
“The evacuation of Kabul is coming to an end. A bigger crisis has only just begun, ”warned United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi on August 30.
“The evacuation effort undoubtedly saved tens of thousands of lives, and these efforts are commendable. But when the airlift and the media frenzy is over, the overwhelming majority of Afghans, some 39 million, will remain inside Afghanistan. They need us – governments, humanitarians, ordinary citizens – to stay with them and stay the course, ”Grandi said in a statement.
In the United States, Catholics have joined religious leaders of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, which in a letter of August 30 urged Biden to “take full responsibility for protecting the lives of thousands of Afghan allies who have worked alongside US forces, as well as providing strong protections. for vulnerable populations in Afghanistan… ”
As the Biden administration pivoted its future in Afghanistan from a military operation to a diplomatic operation, the interfaith coalition urged the US government to help.
“If ‘human rights are to be at the center of our foreign policy, not at the periphery,’ as you stated in (your) address to the American people and the world, the United States must keep its promises. … ”, The interfaith declared in its press release.
“We are called by our sacred texts to love our neighbor, accompany the vulnerable and welcome the visitor … Our places of worship and our religious communities are ready to welcome all Afghans in need of refuge,” added the group.
Others, like the Catholic organization Pax Christi USA, have criticized the Biden administration for a drone strike on August 29 against suspected suicide bombers, which resulted in explosions that killed 10 civilians, including children.
“Pax Christi USA calls on the Biden administration to cease the use of lethal drones,” the organization’s executive director Johnny Zokovitch said in an Aug. 30 statement.
“Such indiscriminate killings only deepen the cycle of violence, undermine true human security and traumatize survivors. What we are seeing now after 20 years of military occupation in Afghanistan should, at the very least, cause our leaders to pause and wonder to what end more weapons, more bombs and more deaths will lead. “
The administration ordered the strike after explosions near Kabul airport, carried out by suicide bombers, killed 13 US servicemen on August 26.
In a late-afternoon televised speech on August 31, Biden said “it is time to end this war” in Afghanistan a long time ago. It was something the former presidents had promised but failed to deliver.
“I refused to start another decade of war in Afghanistan,” he said, adding that he did not want to “send another generation of American sons and daughters to fight a war that should have been fought. a long time ago”.
Civilian and military advisers advised him to end this war as it was of no vital interest to the United States, he said, which at one point had ensured that Afghanistan could not be used by those who wanted to attack the United States.
“We have done justice to Bin Laden, al-Qaida has been wiped out,” he said.
He also took ownership and responsibility for his decision.
“As we end 20 years of war, conflict, pain and sacrifice, it is time to look to the future, not the past,” he said. “I give my word with all my heart: I believe this is the right decision, the wise decision and the best decision for America.”