Last Foreign Troops Leave Afghanistan, Taliban Celebrate
The hardline Islamist Taliban celebrated their total return to power on Tuesday with gunfire and diplomacy, after the last US troops flew out of Afghanistan to end two decades of war.
The United States' longest military conflict drew to a close on Monday night when its forces abandoned Kabul's airport, where it had overseen a frenzied airlift that saw more than 123,000 people flee.
Taliban fighters then quickly swept into the airport and fired weapons into the sky across the city in jubilation -- an astonishing return after US forces invaded in 2001 and toppled them for supporting Al-Qaeda.
"Congratulations to Afghanistan... this victory belongs to us all," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told reporters hours later on the runway of the airport.
Mujahid said the Taliban's victory was a "lesson for other invaders".
Many Afghans are terrified of a repeat of the Taliban's initial rule from 1996-2001, which was infamous for their treatment of girls and women, as well as a brutal justice system.
However the Taliban have repeatedly promised a more tolerant and open brand of rule compared with their first stint in power, and Mujahid continued that theme.
"We want to have good relations with the US and the world. We welcome good diplomatic relations with them all," he said.
Fawzia Koofi, a rights activist and former negotiator for the ousted government who has twice survived assassination attempts, appealed to the Taliban to include all Afghans as they turn to governing the country.
"Our wealth is our young girls and boys," she wrote. "Taliban, hear us out: we must rebuild together! This land belongs to all of us."
The withdrawal came just before the August...
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