Taken on Aug. 30, 2021 the photo in this article shows Major General Chris Donahue, commander of the US Army 82nd Airborne Division, XVIII Airborne Corps, boarding a C-17 Globemaster III cargo plane at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. Maj. Gen. Donahue has been the final American service member to depart Afghanistan; his departure closed the US mission to evacuate American citizens, Afghan Special Immigrant Visa applicants, and vulnerable Afghans. Along with Donahue, there was US acting ambassador to Afghanistan Ross L. Wilson.
On Aug. 30 in fact the final US Air Force (USAF) C-17, call sign Moose 85, has cleared Afghanistan airspace, officially completing the American military withdrawal from Afghanistan and marking the end of nearly 20 years of war, said US Central Command boss Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr.
According to Air Force Magazine, the very final US military flight out of Afghanistan left at 3:29 p.m. Eastern time, 11:59 p.m. locally, McKenzie said.
“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,” he said in a press briefing.
As reported by The New York Times, the enormous evacuation operation, unfolding after the unexpectedly rapid collapse of the Afghan government, airlifted some 123,000 people out of the country in the last two months, including about 6,000 Americans.
About 1,200 people had been airlifted from Kabul in the previous 24 hours, a White House spokeswoman said early Monday morning.
When US troops boarded the last flight out of Kabul, there were no more evacuees left in the airport, McKenzie said.
On Monday evening Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said that there were fewer than 200 American citizens left in Afghanistan who wanted to leave, and that the US would help them do so. He said it was difficult to give an exact number because some dual citizens have lived in Afghanistan for years and have family there, and are struggling to decide whether to stay or go.
“If an American in Afghanistan tells us they want to stay for now, and in a week or month or year they reach out and say, ‘I’ve changed my mind,’ we will help them leave,” Mr. Blinken said.
At different times, Americans were urged not to come to certain gates around the airport due to security threats (not from the Taliban but from the Islamic State-Khorasan branch) by the State Department.
On Aug. 26 ISIS-K, as the group is often called, launched a deadly attack using a suicide bomber to kill 13 US service members and dozens of Afghans outside an airport gate. In response, the US launched an airstrike that killed two ISIS-K planners and struck an explosive-laden truck in Kabul.
As American troops departed, they were forced to destroy equipment to ensure it would not fall into Taliban hands. In addition to a number of Humvees and armored vehicles, troops also destroyed 73 aircraft—“most of them were non-mission-capable to begin with, but certainly they’ll never be able to be flown again,” McKenzie said.
Photo credit: Jack Hol US Central Command
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