The United States officially ended its military presence in Afghanistan with the last American military flight from Kabul, concluding 20 years of American involvement after the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), said in a televised address that the last C-17 military aircraft cleared Afghan airspace after taking off around 3:29 p.m. ET on August 30. 31 deadline for stopping the last airlift.
“I am 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,” McKenzie said Aug. 30.
There are still Americans remaining in Afghanistan “by the hundreds,” he said in response to a reporter’s question, adding that the military and State Department will work to evacuate those individuals. Earlier on August 30, a Pentagon spokesman said there were about 600 left in the country.
“We didn’t get everyone out that we wanted to get out,” the general said, adding that it was a “difficult situation”.
McKenzie’s comments, however, appear to contradict a statement Biden made when he told ABC News on Aug. 18, “If there are any American citizens left [in Afghanistan]we’ll stay to get them all out.
The US withdrawal from Afghanistan ended in a hasty evacuation that evacuated more than 100,000 people from August 14 as the Taliban took control of Kabul following a blistering military offensive that lasted only a few days. On August 26, Islamic State terrorists carried out a bomb attack at Kabul airport, killing dozens of Afghan civilians and 13 American soldiers.
Biden now faces condemnation at home and abroad, not so much for ending the war as for his handling of a final evacuation that unfolded in chaos and raised doubts about the credibility of the United States. Biden has repeatedly defended his administration’s handling of the evacuation, though he and other administration officials have provided conflicting details about the situation on the ground in Kabul.
Questions have also been raised about intelligence reports used by the Pentagon and top military leaders regarding the speed at which the Taliban took control of the country and the downfall of the US-backed Afghan government and military. . Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin and other generals said they had received no information to suggest the country’s government would collapse in just 11 days to the Taliban, which some federal agencies have designated as a terrorist group.
Meanwhile, the administration has received criticism over the billions of dollars in US weapons, vehicles, planes and other equipment seized by the Taliban.
The United States’ final exit included the withdrawal of its diplomats, although the State Department left open the possibility of resuming some level of diplomacy with the Taliban depending on how they conduct themselves in the establishment. a government and adhering to international calls for the protection of human rights. .
Previously, the Trump administration negotiated with the Taliban for months, setting a May 1 withdrawal date. Biden pushed back the withdrawal date to coincide with the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack.
A new threat posed by the Afghan withdrawal and Taliban takeover is the terrorist group ISIS. When the Taliban took over, their operatives released many ISIS operatives from prisons across the country.
McKenzie took note of the threat posed by ISIS, saying the Taliban – an enemy of ISIS – will now have to deal with the group.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.