The US military ended its withdrawal from Afghanistan on Monday, after a mission that lasted almost 20 years.
The last US flights departed from Hamid Karzai International Airport at 3:29 p.m. EDT (midnight on August 31 in Kabul), the deadline agreed with the Taliban for departure.
“Tonight’s withdrawal signifies both the end of the military component of the evacuation and the end of almost 20 year mission that started in Afghanistan shortly after September 11, 2001, “said Gen. Frank McKenzie, who oversaw the operation.
The general made the announcement from the Pentagon after the last troops sent to evacuate Americans and Afghans at risk following the return of the Taliban to power took off from Kabul.
A new era begins in Afghanistan
Por Barbara Plett Usher, BBC News Wilmington
After 20 years, the war in Afghanistan is over.
The top US military commander in the region, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, said the last C17 aircraft had left Kabul with the US ambassador on board.
Thus ended a massive operation to evacuate more than 120,000 people in just over two weeks: Americans, foreigners and many Afghans.
But he left behind the kind of tragedy that marked the country during the war.
The Pentagon said it is investigating reports of a drone attack targeting a possible suicide bomber in the last hours of the operation that left at least 10 civilians dead.
General McKenzie noted that even though the military mission ended, the diplomatic task to help those who could not leave before the deadline continues.
The UN Security Council passed a resolution in which it hopes the Taliban will keep their promises to let people go, including Afghans who supported the war.
He also broadly set expectations on the fight against terrorism, human rights and humanitarian access, joining in a set of basic rules to participate in this new stage in Afghanistan.
“Anguish of departure”
In recent weeks, the United States evacuated about 120,000 people – Americans, Afghans and other nationalities – from the Afghan capital.
McKenzie emphasized that the cost of the total mission was high, with more than 2,400 US servicemen killed in two decades.
He also paid tribute to the 13 US soldiers killed in a suicide bombing claimed by ISIS-K, the Afghan branch of the so-called Islamic State, at the Kabul airport last week and said their sacrifice should be honored.
“There is a lot of anguish associated with this game. We did not remove everyone we wanted to remove. But I think if we had stayed another 10 days, we would not have been able to evacuate everyone, “McKenzie said.
As the last US troops withdrew from Kabul, celebratory shots from pro-Taliban forces rang out over the Afghan capital.
In the 20 years of the US presence in Afghanistan, more than 800,000 US military personnel and 25,000 civilians served in the country.
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