Last U.S. troops leave Afghanistan. What's next?

Last U.S. troops leave Afghanistan. What's next?

The Taliban movement (outlawed in Russia) spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid held a press conference at the Kabul airport following the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops on Tuesday. 

"We want to have good relations with the U.S. and the world. We welcome good diplomatic relations with them all," he said from the runway of the airport., noting that the U.S. was defeated.

Earlier, Marine General Frank McKenzie, head of US Central Command, announced that the last American troops flew out of Kabul just before midnight local time (19:30 GMT).

“Tonight’s withdrawal signifies both the end of the military component of the evacuation, but also the end of the nearly 20-year mission that began in Afghanistan shortly after Sept. 11, 2001,” McKenzie said.

“It was not a cheap mission,” he continued. “The cost was at 2,461 U.S. Service members and civilians, and more than 20,000 injured. Sadly, that includes 13 U.S. service members who were killed last week by an ISIS-K (terrorist group outlawed in Russia) suicide bomber.”

In total, McKenzie said 123,000 civilians were evacuated in the massive airlift operation, including over 6,000 American citizens.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday that "a small number of Americans — under 200, and likely closer to 100" remain in Afghanistan and want to leave. Blinken promised that the U.S. would continue to attempt to get those Americans out of the country. 

"If an American in Afghanistan tells us that they want to stay for now, and then in a week or a month or a year, they reach out and say I've changed my mind, we will help them leave," the secretary said.

Blinken also announced that the U.S. diplomatic effort in Afghanistan would now be managed out of Doha, Qatar. 

U.S. Republican lawmakers leveled fierce criticism at Joe Biden’s administration over its withdrawal from Afghanistan, blasting the chaotic exit as an act of shame that left Americans behind to the “mercy of terrorists.”

Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wrote on Twitter: "Hundreds of Americans now hostage to terrorists. Billions in OUR military equipment handed to the Taliban. 13 soldiers dead."

Former U.S. President Donald Trump also earlier criticized his successor’s handing of the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, saying he would have gotten Americans and equipment out of the country before military personnel and that he had an agreement with the Taliban he was willing to back up with force. “It’s a great thing that we’re getting out, but nobody has ever handled a withdrawal worse than Joe Biden,” Trump said in an televised interview with Fox News Host Sean Hannity on Tuesday. “This is the greatest embarrassment, I believe, in the history of our country.”

Taliban fighters on Tuesday took charge of Kabul’s airport as the last U.S. soldiers flew out of the country. Celebratory gunfire and fireworks lit up the Kabul night sky.