U.S. Embassy personnel evacuated Afghanistan Tuesday, taking off from the besieged capital under Soviet escort, and the Soviet military commander said his forces would stop bombing Afghan rebel bases after Moscow completes its troop withdrawal by Feb. 15.
Lt. Gen. Boris Gromov, commander of Soviet forces in Afghanistan, announced the end of bombing runs by aircraft based inside the Soviet Union, and he disputed U.S. claims that Moscow was conducting a "scorched earth" campaign in Afghanistan in the final days before the Soviet withdrawal.Gromov said he would be the last Soviet soldier to leave Afghanistan.
The U.S. mission in Kabul was formally closed Monday amid fears that rebels would attack the city once Soviet troops left the country. The Americans had been scheduled to depart Aghanistan for India the same day but were thwarted by snow.
The embassy's seven officers and four Marines emerged from the austere two-story building and drove in two bulletproof vehicles to the nearby airport where Soviet helicopter gunships circled above as decoys against possible anti-aircraft attacks.
The U.S. Embassy in New Delhi said the Americans arrived safely and "most will return to the United States shortly."
Jon D. Glassman, charge d'affaires in Kabul, said the embassy would reopen when peace is restored to Afghanistan. "We'll be back in a few months," he said in New Delhi.
In Islamabad, a Western diplomat quoted Soviet sources in Kabul as saying the pullout from the Afghan capital would be completed between Thursday and Monday. A contingent at the city's airport will be the last to be withdrawn. He said the bulk of the troops would leave in a massive airlift.
The diplomat said Soviet troops have also begun leaving the huge air base in the western town of Shindand and are being replaced by Afghan forces.
He reported chronic food shortages continued in many parts of Afghanistan.