The United States has withdrawn the last of its military out of Kabul, officially ending the country’s 20-year war in Afghanistan.
The last C-17 plane departed from Afghanistan on Tuesday at 3:29 p.m. Kabul time, putting an end to the country’s withdrawal, which was rushed by the Taliban’s quick takeover and threatened by a deadly suicide attack that the Islamic State’s affiliate in Afghanistan claimed responsibility for.
“Tonight’s withdrawal signifies both the end of the military component of the evacuation but also the end of the nearly 20-year mission that began in Afghanistan shortly after Sept. 11, 2001,” said Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, who leads U.S. Central Command.
More than 120,000 people have been evacuated since Aug. 14 in one of the largest airlifts in history, though the increasing danger to Kabul’s airport resulted in some Americans and thousands of Afghan allies left behind.
The Pentagon said there were no non-military Americans on the last military flights and that it believes the number of Americans left in the country is in the “very low hundreds.” McKenzie also stressed that some Americans expressed they wanted to stay Afghanistan.
Earlier Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the Taliban has publicly stated it will allow people to travel outside of Afghanistan after Aug. 31.
“That does not mean we trust what they say, but there is an enormous amount of international leverage,” Psaki said. “There is a discussion about what our diplomatic presence may look like moving forward. Our current plan is to not have an ongoing diplomatic presence in Afghanistan” for now, but the U.S. would like to find ways to work with Afghans.
U.S. officials told The Wall Street Journal that a small handful of remaining U.S. diplomats also left on Monday and are safe in Kuwait. This means there are currently no U.S. diplomats left in Afghanistan.
The U.S. deadline to fully withdraw its military from Afghanistan came on the heels of a suicide bomb that killed 13 U.S. service members and nearly 200 Afghans near Kabul’s international airport. President Joe Biden vowed at the time to retaliate against ISIS-K for the attack, but said the U.S. would continue its evacuation operation.
Since then, the U.S. carried out a drone strike it said hit a suicide bomber on the way to the airport, though the attack also killed some Afghan civilians. Early Monday, ISIS-K fired a wave of rockets at the emptying airport, an attack intercepted by the U.S.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
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