A handout photo of a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul.
Handout | Getty Images News
WASHINGTON – America’s longest war is over.
The United States has ended its withdrawal efforts from Kabul airport, the Pentagon announced on Monday, effectively ending a 20-year conflict that began not long after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The last C-17 military cargo plane left Hamid Karzai International Airport on Monday afternoon, according to U.S. Marine Corps General Kenneth McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, and completed a massive evacuation that has seen more in the past two weeks when 116,000 people were flown out of Afghanistan.
“While the military evacuation is complete, the diplomatic mission will continue to secure additional US citizens and Afghans willing to leave,” added McKenzie, who oversees the US military mission in the region.
Early Monday, US and Allied forces evacuated 1,200 people from the Afghan capital on 26 military cargo plane flights in 24 hours, according to the latest White House figures. Since the mass evacuations began on August 14, around 116,700 people have been flown out of Afghanistan.
About 122,300 people have been evacuated since the end of July, including about 5,500 US citizens and their families. McKenzie said there were no Americans on the last five flights out of Kabul.
“We couldn’t get any Americans out, this operation probably ended about 12 hours before we moved out. We are continuing the operation and would have been ready to take them until the last minute, but none of them made it to the airport,” said McKenzie .
On the previous Monday, up to five missiles were intercepted by US anti-missile missiles near Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, the place where US forces have sprinted to conduct final evacuation flights since
The Taliban took control of the country two weeks ago.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement that President Joe Biden had been informed of the missile attack and reiterated that commanders should give priority to protecting US forces on the ground.
The Pentagon said Saturday it had begun its retrograde process – the withdrawal of U.S. soldiers. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said fewer than 5,000 soldiers remain in Afghanistan, adding that the US would no longer provide an exact number due to security conditions.
On Monday, Kirby said the US would communicate with the Taliban through the evacuation mission.
“Our commanders on site remain in contact with the Taliban leaders around the airfield in order to resolve conflicts and avoid misjudgments and misunderstandings.
When asked about the security situation, Kirby described the threats as dynamic but added that the US “will retain the ability to protect and defend ourselves as we continue to step backwards”.
A State Department spokesman said Saturday that about 250 Americans are still seeking evacuation.
Read more about developments in Afghanistan:
Over the weekend, the US carried out two known drone strikes against ISIS-K members believed to have been involved in planning attacks against US forces in Kabul. The strikes followed a suicide bombing that killed 13 American soldiers.
The Pentagon said on Sunday that it is evaluating the results of the drone strikes after reports of civilian casualties.
“We are aware of reports of civilian casualties following our attack on a vehicle in Kabul today,” said US Navy Captain Bill Urban, spokesman for US Central Command, in a statement.
“We would be deeply saddened by the possible loss of innocent people,” he added.
13 fallen US soldiers
The Pentagon on Saturday released the names of the 13 US soldiers killed after a suicide bomber detonated an explosive near the gates of Kabul airport.
The August 26 attack near the gates of Hamid Karzai International Airport that killed 11 Marines, one Marine and one Army soldier is currently under investigation.
On Sunday, the President and First Lady Jill Biden traveled to Dover Air Force Base to meet privately with the families of the fallen before watching the graceful transfer of American flag-draped suitcases from a C-17 military cargo plane to a vehicle .
The remains were flown from Kabul to Kuwait and then to Germany before arriving in Dover.
United States President Joe Biden will attend the dignified transfer of the remains of a fallen soldier at Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Delaware on August 29, 2021
Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images
A dignified transfer is a solemn process in which the remains of fallen soldiers are transported from an airplane to a waiting vehicle. It is carried out for every U.S. soldier killed in action.
It was the first time Biden had participated in a dignified transfer since he became president.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley also attended the dignified transfer, along with U.S. Marine Corps Commander Gen. David Berger, U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Gilday and US Air Force Col. Chip Hollinger, who oversaw the military logistics of the transfer.
This story evolves. Please check again for updates.