On Monday, military officials announced that the last American troops had been evacuated from the airport in Kabul, marking the end of the 20-year U.S. ground occupation of Afghanistan. Below are the latest developments from the final hours of the U.S. drawdown after the two-decade war.
Blinken says ‘under 200’ Americans remain in Afghanistan
Hours after the end of the military evacuation was announced, Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a press conference announcing that the United States is suspending its diplomatic mission in Kabul, transferring diplomats that were in the Afghan capital to Doha, Qatar. He added that diplomat John Bass — the former ambassador to Afghanistan and Biden’s nominee for Undersecretary of State for Management — will lead the campaign to help vulnerable Afghans get out of the country. Blinken also stated that there are “still a small number of Americans — under 200, and likely closer to 100 — who remain in Afghanistan and want to leave.”
In a written statement, President Joe Biden said he would address the nation Tuesday, and gave his thanks to “our commanders and the men and women serving under them for their execution of the dangerous retrograde from Afghanistan as scheduled — in the early morning hours of Aug. 31, Kabul time — with no further loss of American lives.”
CENTCOM confirms all U.S. troops are out
CENTCOM Commander, General Kenneth McKenzie announced in a briefing held at the Pentagon that the final U.S. military aircraft lifted off from Hamid Karzai International Airport at 3:39 p.m. Eastern time. “I’m here to announce the completion of our withdrawal from Afghanistan and the end of the military mission to evacuation American citizens, third country nationals and vulnerable Afghans,” McKenzie said. Over the prior 18 days, since the Taliban shocked the world by capturing Kabul, more than 123,000 civilians were airlifted from by U.S. and coalition forces, in the largest such mission in American military history, McKenzie said.
“We did not get everybody out that we wanted to get out, but I think if we stayed another 10 days, we wouldn’t have gotten everybody out who we wanted to get out,” McKenzie added, stressing that while the military mission is complete, the U.S. will still engage in diplomatic efforts to evacuate American civilians who chose to stay behind and Afghan allies still in-country.
10 civilians reportedly killed in U.S. strike, including seven children
On Sunday, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command announced that a drone strike had successfully destroyed a cache of ISIS-K explosives intended for the Kabul airport, where 13 U.S. troops and killed at least 92 Afghans. According to a report from the New York Times, the strike also killed 10 civilians, including seven children. “At first I thought it was the Taliban,” said Samia Ahmadi, whose father and fiancé were killed in the explosion. “But the Americans themselves did it.” When asked directly about the report of civilian deaths Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said that “we are not in a position to dispute it right now.”
Rockets fired at airport, shot down by U.S.
Five rockets were fired at the Kabul airport on Monday, but were intercepted by the U.S. military’s C-RAM defense system. Reuters reports that ISIS-K claimed responsibility for the rockets. One rocket reportedly hit a building in Kabul, but no casualties were reported, according to CNN.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Monday that the “threat stream” from would-be attackers “is still real. It’s still active, and, in many cases, it’s still specific.”
1,200 people airlifted since Sunday, “core” U.S. diplomatic staff are out
According to the White House, 1,200 people were evacuated from Kabul within the 24-hour period ending at 3 a.m. Eastern Time, on Monday, via 26 U.S. military flights and two coalition flights. That makes 116,700 people evacuated from the country since August 14.
“Core” U.S. diplomatic staff also left the country by Monday morning, U.S. officials told Reuters.
This post has and will be updated.