The last planes left Kabul airport at 3:29 PM Washington time, ending 20 years of war
The United States completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan late Monday, ending America’s longest war and closing a chapter in military history likely to be remembered for colossal failures, unfulfilled promises and a frantic final exit that cost the lives of more than 180 Afghans and 13 US service members.
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Announcing the completion of the evacuation and war effort, General Frank McKenzie, head of the US Central Command, said the last planes took off from the Kabul airport at 3:29 p.m. Washington time, or one minute before midnight in Kabul.
The chief US diplomat in Afghanistan, Ross Wilson, was on the last flight of the C-17, McKenzie told a Pentagon news conference.
A Taliban guard at the Kabul airport said the last of US planes have flown out and celebratory gunfire has erupted over the Afghan capital, marking the symbolic end of 20 years of war.
Hemad Sherzad, a Taliban fighter stationed at the airport, said the last five US planes left around midnight early Tuesday. That would mean the end of a massive airlift that has allowed more than 116,000 people to leave since the Taliban returned to power two weeks ago.
Hours before President Joe Biden’s deadline Tuesday for closing a final airlift and thus ending the US war, air force transport planes were transporting a remaining contingent of troops from the Kabul airport. Thousands of troops had spent a harrowing two weeks protecting a rushed and risky airlift of tens of thousands of Afghans, Americans and others trying to escape a country once again ruled by Taliban militants.
The airport had become a US-controlled island, the latest in a 20-year war that claimed more than 2,400 American lives.
The closing hours of the evacuation were marked by extraordinary drama. US troops faced the daunting task of getting the last of the evacuees onto planes while also getting themselves and some of their equipment out, even as they faced repeated threats — and at least two actual attacks — by the Daesh’s Afghanistan affiliate. group monitored. A suicide bomber on August 26 killed 13 American servicemen and some 169 Afghans.
The final withdrawal fulfilled Biden’s promise to end what he called an “eternal war” that began in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington and rural Pennsylvania. His decision, announced in April, reflected the national fatigue of the conflict in Afghanistan. Now he is being condemned at home and abroad, not so much for ending the war as for his handling of a final evacuation that went in chaos and cast doubt on the credibility of the US.
More than 1,100 troops from coalition countries and more than 100,000 Afghan troops and civilians were killed, according to Brown University’s Costs of War project.
The US’s eventual exit included the withdrawal of its diplomats, although the State Department has left open the possibility of resuming some level of diplomacy with the Taliban, depending on how they behave in establishing a government and obeying international advocacy for the protection of human rights.
At the conclusion of the evacuation, more than 100,000 people, mainly Afghans, had been taken to safety.