The Pentagon announced Monday that the last American troops had left Afghanistan, ending America’s longest war. “Every US soldier is from Afghanistan, I can say that with absolute certainty,” General Kenneth F. McKenzie, the head of US Central Command, said at a briefing.
The last U.S. flight from Afghanistan departed at 3:29 p.m. ET, McKenzie said. The heads of the Department of State and Department of Defense teams were among the last to leave: Chargé d’affaires Ross Wilson and Major General Chris Donahue.
The 18th Airborne Corps posted a photo of the last soldier to leave Afghanistan. He was identified as Major General Chris Donahue, commander of the United States Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, XVIII Airborne Corps, by the Department of Defense’s media arm, DVID’s.
President Biden said he would address Americans on Tuesday about the decision not to extend the US mission beyond the deadline, even though some Americans and high-risk Afghans were unable to evacuate.
“For now, I will report that it was the unanimous recommendation of the Joint Chiefs and of all our commanders on the ground to end our airlift mission as planned,” Biden said in a statement Monday afternoon. “Their view was that ending our military mission was the best way to protect the lives of our troops and safeguard the prospects of civilian departure for those looking to leave Afghanistan in the coming weeks and months.”
US forces have “demilitarized” or rendered useless the military equipment they left behind, including dozens of military vehicles and aircraft worth billions of dollars worth of equipment.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken later said on Monday that the US remains committed to Americans still in the country and to vulnerable Afghans, even though the US no longer has a military or diplomatic presence, as diplomats assigned to Afghanistan will now operate from Doha. , Qatar. Blinken said there are “less than 200, probably closer to 100” Americans left in Afghanistan.
“Now US military flights have ended and our troops have left Afghanistan. A new chapter of America’s engagement with Afghanistan has begun. It is one in which we will lead with our diplomacy,” Blinken said.
The withdrawal came nearly 20 years after the US military first entered Afghanistan following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
“Your shift will never be forgotten,” McKenzie said during the Pentagon briefing. “My heart is broken from the losses of three days ago.”
Thursday was the deadliest day for US troops in Afghanistan in more than a decade, when: 13 US service members were killed in a suicide bombing at the airport. Dozens of Afghan civilians were also killed. An ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan known as: ISIS-K claimed responsibility for the attack and the US launched airstrikes on ISIS-K targets in retaliation.
McKenzie, who has served in Afghanistan and whose son also served there, said he was “in conflict” when asked about his personal reservations about the withdrawal. But he said for the past few weeks he’s been “focused” on the mission ahead of us to… evacuate US citizens and risky Afghans who helped US troops and desperate to leave the country after the Taliban takeover.
McKenzie acknowledged that “we didn’t get everyone out we wanted,” and estimated several hundred were unable to evacuate. There were no American civilians on the last five jets to leave Afghanistan, and McKenzie said the ability to evacuate Americans ended about 12 hours before the last military flight.
The US has relocated more than 122,000 people from Afghanistan, including 5,400 US citizens, since late July, Army Major General Hank Taylor told reporters at the Pentagon briefing.
McKenzie said the Taliban had been “pragmatic” in recent weeks as the US withdrew troops and evacuated civilians. He said “there was no discussion of turning anything or anything.”
“They wanted us out and we wanted out,” McKenzie said of the Taliban.
McKenzie said he will “never forget” every Marine, sailor and soldier who died. He said the mission in Afghanistan has shifted from a military mission to a diplomatic one.
The White House said Monday that the US evacuated 1,200 people from Kabul in a 24-hour span from Sunday morning to Monday, with 26 military flights and two coalition flights carrying evacuees from Kabul.
Over a 24-hour period the previous day, from early Saturday to early Sunday, about 2,900 people were evacuated, with 32 military flights and nine coalition aircraft taking off from Kabul airport.