New York Times correspondent Matthew Rosenberg left Kabul on Thursday after the Afghan government ordered him out in response to his recent reporting about the threat of a coup.
"To Serve & Protect: Kabul's chief prosecutor, police general & four regular police escorted me thru immigration. All oddly chummy about it," Rosenberg said on Twitter shortly before his New York-bound flight took off.
Rosenberg was told on Wednesday that he had 24 hours to leave Afghanistan.
The order came after the Times correspondent refused to name the sources for the article published Tuesday, which said that senior officials in Kabul were talking about establishing a committee-run "interim government" to resolve an impasse over the outcome of June's presidential runoff.
"This first expulsion of a journalist in post-Taliban Afghanistan is a regrettable step backward for press freedom," the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, James B. Cunningham, said Thursday.
"We deplore this decision, which is unjustified and based on unfounded allegations," the diplomat said.
Rosenberg held outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai responsible for his expulsion.
"To be clear: Expulsion order basically issued by presidential fiat. Sadly, Afghans suffer far worse b/c of officials disregarding laws," the U.S. journalist tweeted.
Karzai, meanwhile, blasted both Rosenberg and the Times.
"Biased reporting by the NYT, not properly sourced, can be considered nothing but a fabrication," the Afghan president's spokesman said.
Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister, outpolled Ashraf Ghani in the first round of Afghan presidential voting, but did not secure a majority.
When preliminary results from the June 14 runoff showed Ghani leading with 56 percent of the vote, Abdullah cried fraud and suggested he would form a parallel government.
A mid-July visit by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry produced an agreement for a recount of all 8.1 million ballots cast in the second round and both candidates vowed to respect the outcome.
But the audit proceeded at a glacial pace amid continuing recriminations, prompting Kerry to return to Kabul early this month.
He managed to get Abdullah and Ghani to sign an accord pledging to cooperate in the formation of a national unity government regardless of which of them becomes head of state.
The eventual winner will succeed Karzai, who became president in the wake of the October 2001 U.S. invasion that toppled the Taliban.
Though the battle with the Taliban rages on, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force is due to withdraw from Afghanistan at year's end.
The United States is prepared to maintain a contingent of roughly 10,000 troops in the country beyond December, provided the new government signs a bilateral security accord.
Both Abdullah and Ghani have said they will sign the agreement with Washington. EFE