WASHINGTON — The Pentagon said on Monday the US had completed efforts to evacuate the remaining civilians and troops from Afghanistan, effectively ending the longest war in American history.
“I’m here to announce the completion of our mission in Afghanistan,” Marine Corps General Kenneth McKenzie told reporters in a virtual briefing. “The last C-17 left at 3:29 PM.”
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The departure of the last American plane from Afghanistan brought a bloody and chaotic end to the conflict. In the final weeks of the war, fighting and terror attacks amid the struggle to evacuate thousands of Americans and Afghans killed 13 servicemen and hundreds of civilians. The US is not expected to have a diplomatic or military presence in the country after this point, officials said.
President Joe Biden has faced the strongest criticism of his presidency from both Republicans and Democrats since the Taliban took control of the country on August 15. But he backed his decision to withdraw all US troops from the country by the 20th. anniversary of the September 11 attacks, and said it was no longer in America’s interest to ground troops in Afghanistan.
“The president stands by his decision to bring our men and women home from Afghanistan,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday.
Biden is expected to make comments about the end of the war in the coming days, Psaki said.
McKenzie said more than 6,000 Americans were evacuated, the “vast majority of those who wanted to leave at this time”. He said the number of Americans left is in the “very low hundreds.”
The government remains committed to evicting all Americans and eligible Afghans who wish to leave the country after the August 31 deadline, he said.
“There’s a lot of heartbreak associated with this departure. We didn’t get everyone out that we wanted to leave,” McKenzie said. “But I think if we really had stayed another 10 days, we wouldn’t have taken out everyone we wanted to leave and there would still be people who would have been disappointed. It’s a difficult situation.”
A White House official said Monday that since the Taliban took control of Kabul in mid-August, the US had evacuated about 116,700 people and facilitated the evacuation. Since late July, the US has relocated about 122,300 people, the official said. About 1,500 Afghans have been evacuated from the country in the past 24 hours and all military personnel are now out of the country, McKenzie said.
The evacuation continued “uninterrupted” Monday, the White House said, despite a barrage of rockets that had been fired towards the Hamid Karzai International Airport of Kabul.
A State Department memo obtained by NBC News Sunday said the agency had begun evacuating the remaining diplomatic workers on two planes carrying U.S. government employees, and secured all locally employed U.S. embassy employees. had processed the last three buses and evacuated 2,800 workers and family members. according to the cable.
On Sunday, about 250 Americans remained in Afghanistan and attempted to leave the country, according to a State Department spokesman, who said aid was being coordinated “around the clock for this group.” The official said those Americans may already be at the airport in Kabul or “being directed there, and they all have information on how to reach us.”
The State Department also contacted about 280 additional people on Sunday who identified as Americans but were either undecided about leaving Afghanistan or said they had no intention of leaving.
About 5,500 U.S. citizens have been safely evacuated since the Taliban quickly took power last month, the official said.