The Pentagon announced on Monday afternoon that the last American troops had left Kabul airport almost 24 hours ahead of schedule, ending the U.S. war in Afghanistan after 20 years and the deaths of 2372 troops.
Witnesses in Kabul said the Taliban let off celebratory gunfire as news circulated that the final U.S. flight had left.
It means President Biden managed to meet his August 31 deadline, but at the cost of letting a militant group retake the country and after the deaths of 13 U.S. service members last week.
‘I’m here to announce the completion of our withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the end of the military mission to evacuate American citizens third country nationals and vulnerable Afghans,’ said Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., commander of U.S. Central Command.
He said the last C-17 lifted off from Hamid Karzai International Airport at 3:29 pm East Coast time.
‘And the last manned aircraft is now clearing the airspace above Afghanistan,’ he added.
‘The last manned aircraft is now clearing the airspace above Afghanistan,’ said Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., commander of U.S. Central Command
A C-17 Globemaster takes off as Taliban fighters secure the outer perimeter, alongside the American controlled side of of the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sunday. A day later the U.S. said the last flight had left
The departure of American troops means the conflict ends with the Taliban back in power and Afghans deeply uncertain of what the future holds.
The final hours of the evacuation were the most tense.
Troops had to get the remaining evacuees on to planes even as their own numbers and supplies were being flown out.
Officials repeatedly warned of the risk of further suicide attacks or rocket assaults.
It was not supposed to be like this. Plans for an orderly departure evaporated as the Taliban advanced rapidly across the country as they capitalized on an Afghan army that fell apart when it knew its strongest army was leaving.
McKenzie shrugged off questions about his feelings at leaving the country in the grip of religious hardliners that American had gone to war to vanquish.
‘No words from me could possibly capture the full measure of sacrifices and accomplishments of those who serve, nor the emotions they’re feeling at this moment, but I will say that I’m proud that both my son and I have been a part of it,’ he said.
The withdrawal was dominated by a hurriedly thrown together evacuation effort.
President Joe Biden attended on Sunday the dignified transfer of the remains of service members killed in the Kabul airport attack last week
A coalition of countries worked around the clock to rescue their citizens and Afghans who worked for their militaries.
More than 122,000 people have been flown out of Kabul since Aug. 14, the day before the regained control of the country.
The Pentagon remained tight-lipped about its final operations on Monday and refused to discuss when its last troops would leave.
Earlier in the day, spokesman John Kirby told reporters “there is still time” for Americans to join a massive airlift that has allowed more than 116,000 people to leave since the Taliban swept back into power two weeks ago.
All day Monday, U.S. military transport jets came and went despite a rocket attack early in the morning.
Source: Daily Mail UK