The United States pulled its troops out of Afghanistan, ending its longest war to cries of shame at home and celebratory gunfire from the victorious Taliban in Kabul.
The last of the American troops overseeing a desperate evacuation effort flew out of Kabul airport on Monday night, completing a withdrawal that has raised deep questions about the United States' status as a “superpower”, AFP wrote.
Taliban forces quickly swept into the airport and fired weapons into the sky in jubilation, celebrating an astonishing victory for the movement two decades after US troops invaded Afghanistan and toppled them from power.
The withdrawal came just before the end of an August 31 deadline set by US President Joe Biden to call time on America's longest war – one that ultimately claimed the lives of more than 2,400 US service members and tens of thousands of Afghans.
More than 123,000 people were evacuated from Kabul aboard the US-led airlift operation, which began just after the Taliban swept into the capital on August 14.
"We can't fight endless wars, but the scope & consequence of Biden's failure here is staggering," Republican Senator Rick Scott said.
"President Biden has brought great shame on the American people," added Congressman Richard Hudson.
Biden's top diplomat, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, was able to offer little more than stern words for the Taliban.
"Any legitimacy and any support will have to be earned," Blinken said, as he announced the United States had suspended its diplomatic presence in Kabul and shifted its operations to Qatar.
In Kabul, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Afghanistan had "gained full independence" with the US withdrawal.
Mujahid said on Tuesday that the defeat of America was a "big lesson for other invaders and for our future generation".
"It is also a lesson for the world," told reporters on the runway of Kabul airport, adding that “this victory belongs to us all”.
The Taliban have repeatedly promised a more tolerant 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.
Mujahid also insisted Taliban security forces would "be gentle and nice".
Anas Haqqani, a senior Taliban official, said he was "proud" to witness "these historic moments".
The Taliban face a daunting challenge of transforming from an insurgent group to a government, in war-ravaged nation dependent on foreign aid.
The United Nations has warned of a humanitarian catastrophe, with food stocks running low because of disruptions caused by conflict as well as a severe drought.
Talks are ongoing as to who will now run Kabul airport, which German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Tuesday was of "existential importance", because it is a lifeline for aid.
The Taliban have asked Turkey to handle logistics while they maintain control of security, but President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has not yet accepted that offer.