President Joe Biden defended his decision to end the US war in Afghanistan but analysts say the collapse of the Afghan government and the return of the Taliban was a crushing coda to the American military mission in the country.

The Taliban fighters celebrated victory after driving out the world’s most powerful military out of the country
The Taliban fighters celebrated victory after driving out the world’s most powerful military out of the country (AFP)

The United States on Monday brought to an end its 20-year war in Afghanistan, withdrawing its last remaining troops.

"My fellow Americans, the war in Afghanistan is now over," Biden said from the White House. 

He added, "I refuse to continue a war that was no longer in the service of the vital national interest of our people".

General Kenneth McKenzie, the US commander responsible for troops in Afghanistan, announced the end of the war saying “there’s a lot of heartbreak associated with this departure. We did not get everybody out that we wanted to get out."

McKenzie also said that the US and its allies had evacuated 123,000 civilians but the military had not been able to evacuated every American citizen or Afghan ally.

What happened in the US on September 11, 2001 changed the course of history.

Two airlines flew into the World Trade Center killing nearly 3,000 people - an attack colloquially known as 9/11.

What followed was the US invasion of Afghanistan to root out Al Qaeda in 2001, which was responsible for the September 11 attacks.

The group had allegedly sought sanctuary in the country as well. 

The US also toppled the Taliban government, which offered a surrender a few months later but was rejected by the US.

In 2002, the US announced Afghanistan was free of al Qaeda and its strategic goalposts moved to reconstruction of the country.

By this point, the Taliban was reorganising to launch an insurgency in the country, and so, followed years of war that claimed tens of thousands of lives. 

Fast forward to 2021. After the US spent billions of dollars to support the Afghan government and its national forces, its collapse and the return of the Taliban this month was a crushing coda to the American military mission in Afghanistan, analysts say.

"The collapse of the Afghan government will have a long-lasting effect on Afghanistan. The collapse of the republic, despite it is flaws and pervasive corruption, was the shattering of many dreams of ordinary educated Afghans who no longer see a future for themselves under the Taliban regime," Sabir Ibrahimi, a non-resident scholar at NYU's centre on international cooperation, told TRT World.

And so, the question remains, has the US achieved its goal in this 20-year-old war in Afghanistan?

Retired Army Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt told TRT World that the goal of the US was to kill or capture Osama bin Laden and ensure Afghanistan would never again be a safe haven and sanctuary for terrorist groups. 

"We achieved the first objective and in the February 2020 US-Taliban agreement, the Taliban pledged to ensure the second objective. If the Taliban live up to their pledges, then the US could be said to achieve its initial goals," he said.

However, Ibrahimi said the US-Taliban deal gave the armed group an upper hand on ground and in negotiations with Afghan officials.

The deal included a full withdrawal of foreign forces and a Taliban guarantee that Afghan soil will not be used as a launch pad for global attacks.

"The US emboldened the Taliban with the US-Taliban deal which gave the group an edge. The US also cut air and technical support to the Afghan national security and defense forces which also damaged the morale of the fighters," says Ibrahimi.

Former CIA Director General David Petraeus said in an interview with TRT World earlier this month that the decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan would be one that "we would come to regret".

"I didn't think we would come to regret it quite as quickly as it seems. We are coming to regret it because clearly the situation is deteriorating very rapidly," Petraeus, who also commanded US forces in Afghanistan, said.

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On Monday around midnight, the Taliban fighters watched the last US planes disappear and then fired their guns into air, celebrating victory after driving out the world’s most powerful military out of the country. 

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said the US had been defeated and that Afghanistan is now a “free and sovereign nation”.

With 150,000 NATO troops in the country at the peak of US's "war on terror" and thousands of lives lost, many ask if the war was worth it when the Taliban was able to swiftly take back the country in just 10 days.

“The major lesson learned is to avoid “mission creep”, whereby you take on additional missions beyond those that brought the US in initially," General Kimmitt said.

"Nation building kept the US in Afghanistan longer, in greater numbers, at greater cost and with less chance of success than what brought us in.”

Source: TRT World