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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) – The Taliban triumphed at Kabul International Airport on Tuesday, hours after the final US troop withdrawal that ended America’s longest war. Standing on the tarmac, Taliban leaders pledged to secure the country, quickly reopen the airport and grant amnesty to former opponents.

In a display of control, the turbaned Taliban leaders were flanked by the elite Badri insurgent unit as they marched on the tarmac. The commandos in camouflage uniforms proudly posed for photos.

Getting the airport back into service is just one of the daunting challenges facing the Taliban in governing a country of 38 million people who, for two decades, had survived on billions of dollars in aid. foreign.

“Afghanistan is finally free,” Hekmatullah Wasiq, a senior Taliban official, told The Associated Press on the tarmac. “The military and civilian side (of the airport) is with us and in control. Hopefully we will announce our Cabinet. Everything is peaceful. Everything is safe.

Wasiq also urged people to return to work and reiterated the Taliban’s promise to offer a general amnesty. “People have to be patient,” he said. “Little by little, everything will return to normal. It will take time. “

Hours earlier, the US military had cordoned off its largest non-combatant airlift in history.

As of Tuesday morning, signs of the chaos of the past few days were still visible. In the terminal, baggage and striped clothing littered the floor, along with bundles of documents. Accordion stills separated the areas as overturned cars and parked vehicles blocked the roads around the civilian airport – a sign of measures being taken to protect against possible suicide bombers entering the facility.

Vehicles carrying the Taliban circled back and forth along the only runway at Hamid Karzai International Airport on the military side of the airfield. Before dawn, heavily armed Taliban fighters passed through hangars, passing some of the seven CH-46 helicopters the State Department used for its evacuations before rendering them unusable.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid addressed the assembled members of the Badri unit. “I hope you will be very careful in your dealings with the nation,” he said. “Our nation has suffered war and invasion and the people have no more tolerance.”

At the end of his remarks, Badri’s fighters shouted, “God is the greatest!

In an interview with Afghan state television, Mujahid also referred to the resumption of operations at the airport, which remains a key way out for those wishing to leave the country.

“Our technical team will check the technical and logistical needs of the airport,” he said. “If we are able to fix everything ourselves, then we won’t need any help. If there is a need for technical or logistical assistance to repair the destruction, then we could ask for help from Qatar or Turkey. “

He did not specify what was destroyed.

Marine General Frank McKenzie, chief of the US Army Central Command, said earlier that troops had deactivated 27 Humvees and 73 planes so they could not be reused. He said troops failed to detonate equipment needed to possibly restart airport operations.

The airport had seen chaotic and murderous scenes since the Taliban crossed Afghanistan and captured Kabul on August 15. Thousands of Afghans besieged the airport, some falling to death after desperately clinging to the side of a US C-17 cargo plane. Last week, an Islamic State suicide bombing at an airport gate killed at least 169 Afghans and 13 US servicemen.

During the evacuation, US forces helped evacuate more than 120,000 US citizens, foreigners and Afghans, according to the White House. Coalition forces also evacuated their citizens and Afghans. But for all who did come out, foreign countries and the United States acknowledged that they had not evacuated everyone who wanted to leave.

On Tuesday, after a night in which the Taliban fired triumphantly into the air, guards now on duty kept the curious and those still hoping to catch a plane away. .

“After 20 years, we have defeated the Americans,” said Mohammad Islam, a Taliban guard at the airport in Logar province, cradling a Kalashnikov rifle. “They are gone and now our country is free.”

“It’s clear what we want. We want Sharia (Islamic law), peace and stability, ”he added.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special representative who oversaw US talks with the Taliban, wrote on Twitter that “Afghans face a moment of decision and opportunity” after the pullout.

“The future of their country is in their hands. They will choose their path in full sovereignty, ”he wrote. “It is also an opportunity to end their war.”

But the Taliban face what could be a series of major crises as they take full control of the government. Most of the billions of dollars Afghanistan holds in foreign reserves are now frozen in America, putting pressure on its depreciating Afghan currency. Banks have put withdrawal controls in place, fearing rushes on their deposits with uncertainty. Officials across the country say they haven’t received their pay for months.

Abdul Maqsood, a traffic police officer for 10 years on duty near the airport, said he had not paid in the past four months.

“We keep coming to work but we are not getting paid,” he said.

Medical equipment remains inadequate, while thousands of people who fled the advancing Taliban still live in squalid conditions. A major drought has also reduced the country’s food supply, making its imports even more important and increasing the risk of famine.

The rights of women, who suffered oppression under the previous Taliban regime, are also in question.

Schools reopened and on Tuesday morning, dozens of elementary school students went to schools in a neighborhood near the airport. The Taliban have ordered the segregation of schools, but this is often not enforced for the youngest.

“I am not afraid of the Taliban,” said Masooda, a fifth grader.

During the evacuation, US forces helped evacuate more than 120,000 US citizens, foreigners and Afghans, according to the White House. Coalition forces also evacuated their citizens and Afghans. But for all who did come out, foreign countries and the United States acknowledged that they had not evacuated everyone who wanted to leave.

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Akhgar reported from Istanbul. Associated Press writer Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates contributed to this report.


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