The final U.S. flight out of Afghanistan has left Kabul, effectively marking the end of the 20-year war, Commander of the United States Central Command Gen. Kenneth McKenzie said Monday.
The Pentagon at first denied knowledge that the last plane had left the country, telling the Daily Caller on Monday afternoon it had no indication that evacuations had stopped – though one source noted the last flight had departed just before. A second Pentagon spokesperson later referred the Caller to the upcoming press briefing when pressed for comment. The Pentagon announced the news in the press conference Monday afternoon, confirming that the last C-17 left the Kabul Airport at 3:29 pm Eastern time.
“Every single U.S. service member is now out of Afghanistan,” McKenzie said.
The U.S. left behind various pieces of equipment at the airport, one source told the Caller. McKenzie confirmed this as well, noting the equipment was taken apart prior to being left behind. The move – departing late at night in Afghanistan – is similar to what U.S. forces reportedly did when they abandoned Bagram air base in July.
Americans still remain in Afghanistan and the White House has vowed to provide help for those that want to get out after the 31st. President Joe Biden stuck with the Aug. 31 drawdown date, despite concerns that Afghan allies and U.S. citizens may be left behind. (RELATED: Pentagon Grilled Over Apparent Lack Of Security Before Terror Attack)
McKenzie said “there were no evacuees left” at the airport upon the U.S. departure. It’s estimated that just over 200 American citizens haven’t been able to get out and still want to leave the country.
He said that there were zero Americans on the last few flights out of the country and claimed that although the military mission has ended, the efforts to get people to safety remain ongoing. Around 1,000 to 1,500 Afghans were brought out in the last day or so, McKenzie noted.
“There’s a lot of heartbreak associated with this departure,” Mckenzie said. “We did not get everybody out that we wanted to get out, but I think. If would have stayed another ten days, we would not have gotten everybody out that we wanted to get out and there still would have been people who would have been disappointed with that. It’s a tough situation, but I want to emphasize again that simply because we have left, that doesn’t mean the opportunities for both Americans that are in Afghanistan that want to leave and up and Afghans who want to leave, they will not be denied that opportunity.”
Biden will speak about his decision to not extend the withdrawal deadline on Tuesday afternoon, according to a press release issued after the announcement Monday. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will speak about the withdrawal on Monday evening.
In his statement, Biden thanked the commanders and those serving on the ground in Kabul as he touted that there was “no further loss of American lives.” Thirteen U.S. service members died last week after an ISIS-K fighter carried out a suicide bomb just outside of the Kabul airport, where swarms of people had desperately gathered in an attempt to leave the country.
“Now, our 20-year military presence in Afghanistan has ended,” Biden said.
“For now, I will report that it was the unanimous recommendation of the Joint Chiefs and of all of our commanders on the ground to end our airlift mission as planned. Their view was that ending our military mission was the best way to protect the lives of our troops, and secure the prospects of civilian departures for those who want to leave Afghanistan in the weeks and months ahead,” he added.
Blinken will “lead the continued coordination with our international partners to ensure safe passage for any Americans, Afghan partners, and foreign nationals who want to leave” the Taliban-led country, Biden explained. In the meantime, Biden requested Americans join him “in grateful prayer tonight for three things.”
“First, for our troops and diplomats who carried out this mission of mercy in Kabul and at tremendous risk with such unparalleled results: an airlift that evacuated tens of thousands more people than any imagined possible. Second, to the network of volunteers and veterans who helped identify those needing evacuation, guide them to the airport, and provide support along the way. And third, to everyone who is now – and who will – welcome our Afghan allies to their new homes around the world, and in the United States,” the president declared.