Taliban legitimacy or support will have to be 'earned': Blinken
"United States suspended its diplomatic presence in Kabul and transferred its operations to Doha."
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States embarked Monday on a “new” chapter regarding Afghanistan and shifted its diplomatic operations to Qatar, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, as he expressed commitment to helping every American who wants to leave the war-weary nation.
“As of today, we’ve suspended our diplomatic presence in Kabul and transferred our operations to Doha, Qatar,” Blinken said, adding that Congress would be notified.
America’s top diplomat, speaking just hours after the final evacuation flights left Kabul, said a small number of US citizens, “under 200” but likely closer to just 100, remained in the country.
The United States completed withdrawal of its forces from Afghanistan, ending the 20 years of invasion into the country.
“The withdrawal from Afghanistan was a massive military, diplomatic and humanitarian undertaking and one of the most challenging the United States has ever carried out,” Blinken said.
Earlier, announcing the withdrawal, commander of the US Central Command, General Frank McKenzie told a Pentagon briefing that the chief US diplomat in Afghanistan Ross Wilson was on the last C-17 flight out.
The US military disabled scores of aircraft and armored vehicles as well as a high-tech rocket defense system at the Kabul airport before it left Monday, the US general said.
Central Command head General Kenneth McKenzie said 73 aircraft that were already at Hamid Karzai International Airport were “demilitarized,” or rendered useless, by US troops before they wrapped up the two-week evacuation of the Taliban-controlled country.
“Those aircraft will never fly again... They’ll never be able to be operated by anyone,” he said.
“Most of them are non-mission capable to begin with. But certainly they’ll never be able to be flown again.”
He said the Pentagon, which built up a force of nearly 6,000 troops to occupy and operate Kabul’s airport when the airlift began on August 14, left behind around 70 MRAP armored tactical vehicles -- which can cost up to $1 million apiece -- that it disabled before leaving, and 27 Humvees.
The vehicles “will never be used again by anyone,” he said.
The US also left behind the C-RAM system -- counter rocket, artillery, and mortar -- that was used to protect the airport from rocket attacks.
“We elected to keep those systems in operation up until the very last minute,” before the last US aircraft left, McKenzie said.
“It’s a complex procedure and time-intensive procedure to break down those systems. So we demilitarize those systems so that they’ll never be used again.”