ONE picture that sums up Biden’s fateful decision in Afghanistan as last US soldier leaves
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Conflict in Afghanistan has been top of the United States’ agenda for years, with the September 11, 2001, Twin Tower attack sparking US presence in the country. Now the last US troops have left Afghanistan, following a chaotic last few days which saw a bombing at Kabul airport kill at least 182 people. This attack was later claimed by ISIS, with their faction ISIS-K having carried it out.
The US’ longest war in Afghanistan saw nearly 2,500 US troops and an estimated 240,000 Afghans killed, and cost approximately $2 trillion (£1.45 trillion).
US President Joe Biden has been integral in the removal of US troops, pushing forward with plans to evacuate despite calls from world leaders to extend the deadline.
However, the withdrawal of US troops has triggered a rapid takeover by the Taliban, who seized control of the Government in just over a week.
Now one staggering photo has shown the last US soldier leaving Afghanistan.
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The US Army shared an image taken with night-vision optics of the last US soldier to step aboard the final evacuation flight out of Kabul.
The troop pictured is Major General Chris Donahue, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division.
The Department of Defense tweeted the picture, writing: “The last American soldier to leave Afghanistan: Maj. Gen. Chris Donahue, commanding general of the @82ndABNDiv, @18airbornecorps boards an @usairforce C-17 on August 30th, 2021, ending the U.S. mission in Kabul.”
As the flight took off, Taliban spokesman Qari Yusuf said: “The last US soldier has left Kabul airport and our country gained complete independence.”
However around 100 Americans were left behind, unable to leave on time.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said under 200 and possibly closer to 100 Americans, wanted to leave Afghanistan but were not able to get on the last flights.
General Frank McKenzie told reporters: “There’s a lot of heartbreak associated with this departure.
“We did not get everybody out that we wanted to get out.
“But I think if we’d stayed another 10 days, we wouldn’t have gotten everybody out.”
Mr Biden’s decision to push ahead with the Afghanistan withdrawal has been met with criticism both at home and abroad.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has been vocal in his disapproval of the withdrawal of troops, calling it “one of the worst foreign policy decisions in American history.”
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Speaking on Fox News Sunday, Mr McConnell said: “We’re looking at the exit, and over the next two days, our heroic military is doing the best they can with a horrible policy decision.
“This is one of the worst foreign policy decisions in American history, much worse than Saigon.”
He continued: “After we left Saigon, there weren’t Vietnamese terrorists who were planning on attacking us here at home. …
“We leave behind exactly what we went in to solve 20 years ago, and I fear for the future and continuing the war on terror.
“You know, just because we decided to quit fighting doesn’t mean the terrorists go away. So they’re still out there. They’re invigorated.
“They’re emboldened and excited about the success they see in bringing America to its knees in Afghanistan.”
And ex-British Prime Minister Tony Blair has said Mr Biden’s decision was “imbecilic”.
Mr Blair was in office when the UK sent troops to Afghanistan in 2001, following the devastating 9/11 attacks in America.
Writing in an article for his Institute for Global Change Mr Blair said: “The abandonment of Afghanistan and its people is tragic, dangerous, unnecessary, not in their interests and not in ours.
“As the leader of our country when we took the decision to join America in removing the Taliban from power, and who saw the high hopes we had of what we could achieve for the people and the world, subside under the weight of bitter reality, I know better than most how difficult are the decisions of leadership and how easy it is to be critical and how hard to be constructive.”
The future for Afghanistan looks uncertain, with economic turmoil and an overthrown Government after the Taliban rapidly advanced.
The US has pledged to continue to try and evacuate Afghan allies and Americans from the country.
Further complicating matters is ISIS-K, an enemy of the Taliban who claimed responsibility for the Kabul airport attack last week.
General McKenzie estimated there are 2,000 “hardcore ISIS fighters in Afghanistan now.”
He said many of these were released from prisons by the Taliban however they now threaten the Taliban’s power in the country.
He said: “I do believe the Taliban is going to have their hands full with ISIS-K.”
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