President Joe Biden embarked on a solemn journey Sunday to honour and mourn the 13 U.S. troops killed in the suicide attack near the Kabul airport as their remains return to U.S. soil from Afghanistan.

Biden travelled to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware for a “dignified transfer” movement, a military ritual of receiving the remains of fallen troops killed in foreign combat.

The dead ranged in age from 20 to 31, and came from California and Massachusetts and states in between. They include a 20-year-old Marine from Wyoming who had been expecting his first child in three weeks and a 22-year-old Navy corpsman who in his last FaceTime conversation with his mother assured her that he would stay safe because “my guys got me.”

Five were just 20, born not long before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, which spurred the United States to invade Afghanistan in order to topple al-Qaeda and dismantle their Taliban hosts who ruled the country.

At their deaths, the 13 young service members were on the ground for the U.S. conclusion to its longest war, assisting a chaotic evacuation of Americans and of Afghans who helped the U.S. war effort and are now fleeing the Taliban after their return to power.

“The 13 service members that we lost were heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice in service of our highest American ideals and while saving the lives of others,” Biden said in a statement Saturday. “Their bravery and selflessness has enabled more than 117,000 people at risk to reach safety thus far.”

Meanwhile, U.S. forces were in the final phase of pulling out of Kabul on Sunday, as Afghanistan’s new Taliban rulers prepared to take control of the airport.

Just over 1,000 civilians remained at the airport to be flown out before the troops finally leave, a Western security official told Reuters.

A U.S. Marine checks a woman as she goes through the Evacuation Control Center (ECC) during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, August 28, 2021. U.S. Marine Corps/Staff Sgt. Victor Mancilla/Handout via REUTERS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. (U.S. Marine Corps/Staff Sgt. Victor Mancilla/Reuters)

“We want to ensure that every foreign civilian and those who are at risk are evacuated today. Forces will start flying out once this process is over,” said the official, who is stationed at the airport.

Biden has said he will stick by his deadline to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Tuesday. A U.S. official told Reuters on Saturday that fewer than 4,000 troops remained at the airport.

U.S. and allied forces have mounted a massive two-week effort to ferry foreign nationals and tens of thousands of vulnerable Afghans out of the country.

A Taliban fighter stands guard near the gate of Hamid Karzai international Airport in Kabul on Saturday. (Wali Sabawoon/The Associated Press)

The airlift — one of the biggest such evacuation operations ever — marked the end of a 20-year Western mission in Afganistan that began when U.S.-led forces ousted a Taliban government that had provided safe haven for the perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

The final chapter came quickly after the United States and the Taliban made a deal to end the foreign involvement. The Western-backed government and Afghan army melted away as Taliban fighters swept across the country and took control of Kabul on Aug. 15.

The United States and allies have taken about 113,500 people out of Afghanistan in the past two weeks, but tens of thousands who want to go will be left behind.

“We tried every option because our lives are in danger. They (the Americans or foreigners) must show us a way to be saved. We should leave Afghanistan or they should provide a safe place for us,” said one women outside the airport.

A Taliban official told Reuters the Islamist group had engineers and technicians ready to take charge of the airport.

Aiming for swift handover

“We are waiting for the final nod from the Americans to secure full control over Kabul airport as both sides aim for a swift handover,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Britain’s last military flight left Kabul on Saturday night after a chaotic two weeks at the airport that was plunged into a bloodbath on Thursday when an Islamic State suicide bomb attack outside the airport gates killed at least 90 Afghans and 13 American troops.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson defended the evacuation operation, but he faced accusations that his government had been “asleep on watch.”

Fears of economic crisis

The collapse of the government leaves an administrative vacuum that has led to fears of an economic crisis and widespread hunger.

Prices for commodities like flour, oil and rice are rapidly rising and the currency is plunging, with money changers across the border in Pakistan already refusing to accept the afghani.

On Saturday, officials ordered banks to re-open and imposed a limit on withdrawals of $200 or 20,000 afghani. Long queues forming outside bank branches of people trying to get money out.

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid has said the difficulties will subside quickly once the new administration is up and running.

But with its economy shattered by 40 years of war, Afghanistan is now facing the end of billions of dollars in foreign aid poured in by Western donors.

Taliban to announce full cabinet

Mujahid said the Taliban would announce a full cabinet in the coming days. It had appointed governors and police chiefs in all but one of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, he said.

It also appealed to the United States and other Western nations to maintain diplomatic relations after withdrawing. Britain said that should happen only if the Taliban allow safe passage for those who want to leave and respect human rights.

A Taliban fighter stands guard as the Taliban’s acting Higher Education Minister Abdul Baqi Haqqani, not pictured, addresses a gathering during a consultative meeting on the Taliban’s general higher education policies at the Loya Jirga Hall in Kabul on Sunday. (Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images)

The Taliban’s 1996-2001 rule was marked by a harsh version of sharia, Islamic law, with many political rights and basic freedoms curtailed and women severely oppressed.

Afghanistan was also a hub for anti-Western militants, and Washington, London and others fear it might become so again.

 


Scource From CBC News

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