Last US flights slip out of Afghanistan 24 hours before deadline: Up to 200 citizens and thousands of allies are left facing nightmare under Taliban, who celebrate America’s retreat from 20-year war with gunfire and by inspecting their new Chinooks
- Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie said the last flight left Kabul shortly after midnight on Tuesday morning local time
- ‘There’s a lot of heartbreak associated with this departure,’ he said by video link at a Pentagon briefing
- It brings an end to America’s war in Afghanistan after 20 years and the deaths of almost 2500 U.S. troops
- It means President Biden met his August 31 deadline and that U.S. service members are out of harm’s way
- He said the world would hold the Taliban to their promise to allow free passage for those wanting to leave
- Republicans condemned a hurried departure that left Americans stranded in an enemy land
- A former CIA paramilitary officer said: ‘Nothing feels good or right about this ignominious retreat’
- Secretary of State Antony Blinken said work continued to help 100-200 Americans who remain
- Witnesses said Taliban fighters fired celebratory shots into the air as word spread that the last flight had left
- A Taliban spokesman declared victory and said the country ‘gained complete independence’
The Army released an image Monday of the last U.S. soldier to leave Afghanistan as the Pentagon announced the last American forces left Kabul airport 24 hours ahead of schedule.
The XVIII Airborne Corps, whose forces go by the Sky Dragons, were among the last to step off Afghan soil as the total withdrawal of U.S. forces concluded Monday ahead of the August 31 deadline.
‘In awe of our Sky Dragon Soldiers,’ the XVIII Airborne Corps tweeted along with an nightvision image of Major General Chris Donahue, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, stepping foot onto the aircraft en route out of Kabul.
The 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions of the Army, among others, fall under the command of XVIII Airborne Corps.
‘This was an incredibly tough, pressurized mission filled with multiple complexities, with active threats the entire time. Our troops displayed grit, discipline and empathy,’ the corps wrote in its tweet.
It added: ‘Below is a picture of the last Soldier to leave Afghanistan.’
The Pentagon announced an end to the U.S. war in Afghanistan on Monday afternoon after 20 years and the deaths of almost 2,500 troops. President Joe Biden will make remarks on the historic occasion on Tuesday afternoon.
Witnesses in Kabul said the Taliban let off celebratory gunfire as news circulated that the final U.S. flight had left.
It means President Biden managed to meet his August 31 deadline and removes American personnel from danger.
But it comes at the cost of letting a militant group retake the country, after the deaths of 13 U.S. service members last week.
And some 100 to 200 Americans and thousands of Afghan allies left behind must fend for themselves now that the airport no longer offers an escape route.
The end of the mission was announced by General Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, who said the chief U.S. diplomat in Afghanistan, Ross Wilson, was on the last C-17 flight out.
‘There’s a lot of heartbreak associated with this departure,’ he said.
‘We did not get everybody out that we wanted to get out.
‘But I think if we’d stayed another 10 days, we wouldn’t have gotten everybody out.’
The final C-17 lifted off from Hamid Karzai International Airport at 3:29 pm East Coast time.
‘And the last manned aircraft is now clearing the airspace above Afghanistan,’ he added.
The XVIII Airborne Corps released an image Monday of the last U.S. soldier to leave Afghanistan – Major General Chris Donahue, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division
‘The last manned aircraft is now clearing the airspace above Afghanistan,’ said Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., commander of U.S. Central Command, while Pentagon spokesman John Kirby looked on
Fireworks, gunfire and explosions erupted in Kabul’s night sky as the Taliban celebrated victory over the U.S. and declared ‘full independence’ after the final flight left the city’s airport carrying troops and diplomats just after midnight
Taliban gunmen lit up the night sky over Kabul with tracer fire after the final U.S. military transport plane left the airport
The last plane left soon after midnight on Tuesday morning to beat President Biden’s August 31 deadline for the withdrawal
The ‘biggest airlift in history’ that left at least 100cAmericans and thousands of Afghan allies stranded in Kabul
Head of US Central Command General Kenneth Frank McKenzie admitted the US military ‘did not get everybody out that we wanted to get out’ when he announced the final US troops had left Afghanistan on Monday.
He also defended the the decision to withdraw early by saying: ‘But I think if we’d stayed another 10 days, we wouldn’t have gotten everybody out that we wanted to get out and there still would’ve been people who would’ve been disappointed with that. It’s a tough situation.’
Since July the US has evacuated 122,000 people out of Kabul including 5,400 Americans. The State Department said on Monday there were at least 250 US citizens who wanted to get out who were still stranded.
Later on Monday, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said the number was between 200 and 100, but still couldn’t put an exact number on it.
He also admitted that Afghan SIV applicants who fought alongside US troops were left behind, but again didn’t give a number, and it could be in the thousands.
As of August 26, just 5,000 SIV applicants had been flown out compared to the 88,000 who are desperately trying to flee the Taliban.
In the last 18 days, 7,500 people have been flown out on flights each day, with evacuations halted for two of those days because of threats on the airport and the Kabul suicide attack.
The highest number of evacuations was 19,000 in a day – but the numbers have dwindled in the final days of the US military operation.
The White House and The State Department have been vague on how many SIV applicants or vulnerable Afghans are still trying to leave, but have promised to ‘help’, even though the military has gone.
Footage emerged of the Taliban scouring the airport for useful hardware left behind
The departure of American troops means the conflict ends with the Taliban back in power and Afghans deeply uncertain of what the future holds.
In a statement, Biden said the world would be watching how the Taliban behaved.
‘The Taliban has made commitments on safe passage and the world will hold them to their commitments,’ he said, adding that negotiations continued to keep the airport open and ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid.
He added that he would address the nation on Tuesday and that his military chiefs had agreed the evacuation should not be extended beyond the deadline.
‘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 said.
Republicans were quick to accuse Biden of abandoning Americans in the city, less than two weeks after he promised to get them all out.
At the same time, the nature of the departure provoked a wave of anger from veterans of the war, many of whom were involved in frantic efforts to rescue Afghan comrades, who were waiting for their Special Immigrant Visas (SIV).
‘Nothing feels good or right about this ignominious retreat leaving American citizens, SIVers and families, and others – including military working dogs – behind,’ Ronald J Moeller, a retired CIA paramilitary operations officer who deployed to Afghanistan 12 times, told DailyMail.com.
‘Zero integrity from anyone in DC or Tampa.
‘Complete capitulation to a faulty narrative based on false assumptions and lots of wishful thinking.’
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said there were 100 to 200 Americans remaining.
‘The military mission is over. A new diplomatic mission has begun,’ he said as he promised a ‘relentless’ effort to rescue the remaining Americans, foreign nationals and Afghan allies.
That effort would be led by diplomats from the shuttered American embassy who will now be based in Doha, Qatar.
The dangers of the evacuation mission were apparent in a final week when the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the suicide attack on the airport on behalf of its Afghan affiliate ISIS-K and terrorism experts said Al Qaeda retained a presence in the country.
The Taliban quickly declared victory after the last U.S. plane departed.
‘American soldiers left the airport, and our nation got its full independence,’ said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.
Footage emerged on social media of Taliban fighters apparently making their way through Kabul airport, examining Chinook helicopters left behind by U.S. troops.
‘The last five aircraft have left, it’s over,’ Hemad Sherzad, a Taliban fighter stationed at Kabul’s international airport, told the Associated Press.
‘I cannot express my happiness in words. … Our 20 years of sacrifice worked.’
A C-17 Globemaster takes off as Taliban fighters secure the outer perimeter, alongside the American controlled side of of the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sunday. A day later the U.S. said the last flight had left
The final flight out followed a difficult and dangerous period, as U.S. officials monitored multiple threats. On Monday morning five rockets were fired at Kabul airport from a car that caught fire afterwards
A girl stands next to a damaged car after multiple rockets were fired in Kabul on Monday
The rockets targeted the airport on Monday morning s the final US flights took off from Kabul. Other Western nations had already left the region and the final U.S. flight left soon after midnight on Tuesday morning local time
9/11, the first CIA missions, the SEAL raid that killed Bin Laden and the Kabul suicide attack that killed 13 Marines: How America’s longest war unfolded
The U.S. completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan late Monday, ending America´s longest war and closing a chapter in military history likely to be remembered for colossal failures, unfulfilled promises and a frantic final exit that cost the lives of more than 180 Afghans and 13 U.S. service members, some barely older than the war.
September 11, 2001
The U.S. war in Afghanistan is triggered by the attacks that killed 2,977 people.
The plot to fly two planes into each tower of the World Trade Center was concocted in Afghanistan by the Al Qaeda terrorist group, led by Osama bin Laden, who was in Afghanistan under Taliban protection.
October 7, 2001
U.S. forces launch air strikes on Taliban and Al Qaeda forces. Small numbers of special forces and CIA agents soon slip into Afghanistan to help direct the bombing campaign and organize Afghan opposition forces.
November 13, 2001
U.S.-backed Northern Alliance forces enter Kabul as the Taliban withdraw. Within a month, Taliban leaders have fled from southern Afghanistan into Pakistan.
U.S. forces bomb the Tora Bora cave complex in eastern Afghanistan where Bin Laden is reported to be hiding, but he disappears.
May 2, 2003
U.S. officials declare an end to major combat operations in Afghanistan. Under President George W. Bush, the U.S. focus turns to preparing for the invasion of Iraq. That allows the Taliban to regroup.
With U.S. forces mainly fighting a surge campaign in Iraq, only a much smaller contingent is deployed in Afghanistan. The Taliban threaten to recapture swaths of territory, especially in the south. An enlarged NATO mission brings thousands more troops, notably British forces, hundreds of whom are killed in intense battles against the Taliban in Helmand province.
February 17, 2009
As Washington draws down in Iraq, newly inaugurated President Barack Obama decides to ramp up the force in Afghanistan. In his first major military decision as commander in chief, he orders in 17,000 more combat troops to reinforce 38,000 U.S. troops and 32,000 from some 40 NATO allies already on the ground. An even larger surge follows, taking troop numbers above 100,000
May 1, 2011
Bin Laden is killed in a raid by U.S. forces in Pakistan. A team of Navy SEALS raided the compound where he had been hiding in the middle of the night and he was shot dead. It ended an intense manhunt for the architect of the worst domestic terrorist attack on U.S. soil.
May 27, 2014
Following the surge campaign of Obama’s first term, Washington rapidly draws down its forces and switches its emphasis to training and supporting the Afghan military. Obama outlines a plan to withdraw all but 9,800 American troops by the end of the year and pull out the rest by the end of 2016.
December 28, 2014
The U.S. combat mission is officially concluded after the withdrawal of most combat troops and a transition to an ‘Afghan-led’ war.
August 21, 2017
U.S. President Donald Trump announces his strategy, calling for a small, open-ended deployment of U.S. forces providing support to Afghans, with the goal of forcing the Taliban to negotiate peace.
February 29, 2020
Washington signs an agreement with the Taliban in Doha to withdraw all U.S. troops. The Taliban agree to halt attacks on U.S. forces, not to let their territory be used for terrorism and to hold talks with the Afghan government.
April 14, 2021
Biden announces U.S. forces will withdraw by Sept. 11, implementing the agreement reached with the Taliban by his predecessor, Trump.
July 2, 2021
U.S. troops abruptly pull out of their main base at Bagram airfield 40 miles north of Kabul.
August 15, 2021
After a stunning week-long advance capturing cities across the country, the Taliban seize Kabul without a fight. President Ashraf Ghani flees the country. The United States and Western allies launch an urgent airlift from Kabul airport to bring out their own citizens and tens of thousands of Afghans who aided them.
August 26, 2021
Islamic State offshoot ISIS-K launches a suicide bomb attack on the crowded gates of Kabul airport, killing scores of civilians and 13 U.S. troops, the deadliest incident for U.S. forces in Afghanistan in more than a decade.
In the days that followed, the U.S. conducted drone strikes on ISIS-K assets in Kabul. ISIS-K also fired five rockets towards Kabul airport as U.S. and western forces tried to get the last American citizens and Afghan allies to safety.
August 30, 2021
U.S. General Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, announces completion of the U.S. troop withdrawal. The Taliban celebrated with gunfire in the streets as Western forces finally left after 20 years.
There were still at least 250 American citizens stranded on the ground and thousands of Afghan allies left to face the Taliban.
The last days of the withdrawal were the most difficult and dangerous.
Troops had to get the remaining evacuees on to planes even as their own numbers and supplies were being flown out.
Officials repeatedly warned of the risk of further suicide attacks or rocket assaults.
It was not supposed to be like this. Plans for an orderly departure evaporated as the Taliban advanced rapidly across the country as they capitalized on an Afghan army that fell apart when it knew its strongest army was leaving.
McKenzie shrugged off questions about his feelings at leaving the country in the grip of religious hardliners that American had gone to war to vanquish.
‘No words from me could possibly capture the full measure of sacrifices and accomplishments of those who serve, nor the emotions they’re feeling at this moment, but I will say that I’m proud that both my son and I have been a part of it,’ he said.
He said the final plane carrying American civilians left about 12 hours before the final flight.
That could leave as many as 250 stranded in the country as negotiations continue about setting up a mechanism to allow them to leave.
‘I believe we’re going to be able to get those people out,’ said McKenzie.
‘I think we’re going to negotiate very hard, very aggressively to get our other Afghan partners out.’
Turkey has offered to run the airport but wants to deploy its own troops for security – a possible sticking point with the Taliban.
The withdrawal was dominated by a hurriedly thrown together evacuation effort.
A coalition of countries worked around the clock to rescue their citizens and Afghans who worked for their militaries.
More than 122,000 people have been flown out of Kabul since Aug. 14, the day before the regained control of the country.
It leaves those left behind in a perilous state.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said in a notice that Hamid Karzai International Airport was without air traffic control service after the U.S. exit.
The Pentagon remained tight-lipped about its final operations on Monday and refused to discuss when its last troops would leave.
Earlier in the day, spokesman John Kirby told reporters ‘there is still time’ for Americans to join the massive airlift that has allowed more than 116,000 people to leave since the Taliban swept back into power two weeks ago.
All day Monday, U.S. military transport jets came and went despite a rocket attack early in the morning.
The crisis has been the biggest test of Biden’s presidency.
He has faced repeated questions about whether his decision triggered the collapse of the government in Kabul and the rapid return to power of the Taliban.
International allies have said they blindsided by the rush to the exit, and Democrats and Republicans have delivered a withering stream of criticism.
On Sunday, he came to face to face with the consequences of his decision to bring home U.S. troops home.
He met families of 13 service members killed in a suicide attack outside Kabul airport, as they protected the evacuation, and then watched in solemn silence as their remains were carried from a C-17 transport plane at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
But the war is not over with America’s departure. The return of the Taliban brings with it the spectre of safe havens for U.S. enemies.
And he Biden administration faces a dilemma about its commitment to launch ‘over the horizon’ strikes on terrorist threats.
It had expected to be able to rely on the support of the Afghan government to provide cover for air strikes on groups plotting attacks on U.S. interests.
With the Taliban in power, Biden may need fresh rules of engagement to justify attacks on Afghan soil when it is no longer an American battlefield.
The emergence of ISIS-K as a potent threat may cause the biggest headache.
It posed the biggest threat to the withdrawal after carrying out a suicide bomb attack at the airport late last week that claimed more than 170 lives.
Biden had warned more attacks were highly likely and the United States said it carried out an air strike on Sunday night in Kabul on an explosives-laden vehicle.
American officials said that a U.S. drone strike blew up a vehicle carrying ‘multiple suicide bombers.’ An Afghan official said three children were killed in the strike.
The other pressing need is to find a mechanism that will ensure people are able to leave Afghanistan.
Earlier in the day a divided U.N. Security Council pressed the Taliban to stick to its public promises that foreigners and Afghans would be free to leave.
Sponsored by the U.S., Britain and France, the measure also calls for letting humanitarian aid flow, upholding human rights and combating terrorism.
‘The eyes of all Afghans are watching this council, and they expect clear support from the international community. And this lack of unity is a disappointment for us and for them,’ French Deputy Ambassador Nathalie Broadhurst said after the vote, in which Russia and China abstained.
Afterwards, the British permanent representative said the U.N. could consider using sanctions to hold the Taliban to their word.
‘The first is that we know that the Taliban want to see the lifting of some of the sanctions on Afghanistan, and that will be an important consideration,’ Ambassador Barbara Wooding told reporters.
‘The flip side of that is, of course, the Security Council could consider further sanctions on Afghanistan.’
A day earlier French President Emmanuel Macron said several nations were working on a proposal aimed at establishing a safe zone in Kabul to allow safe passage for people trying to flee.
President Joe Biden attended on Sunday the dignified transfer of the remains of service members killed in the Kabul airport attack last week
Al Qaeda IS already back in Afghanistan: Bin Laden security chief and arms supplier Amin ul-Haq RETURNS to his hometown
A close aide of Osama bin Laden has returned to his home in Afghanistan after 20 years of US occupation just hours until American forces finish their evacuation from the war-torn country by President Joe Biden’s deadline, a video purports to show.
Amin ul-Haq, a top Al Qaeda arms supplier, returned to his hometown in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province on Monday just over two weeks after the Taliban completed its lightening fast offensive to take over nearly all of the country.
Ul-Haq headed bin Laden’s security when he was occupying the Tora Bora cave complex. The two men escaped together when US forces attacked the complex, according to NBC.
The Al Qaeda leader was killed by US forces in Pakistan in 2011.
A video appears to show top bin Laden deputy Amin ul-Haq’s return to his home town 20 years after he fled US forces
In the video, a car carrying ul-Haq is seen driving through a checkpoint amid a small crowd.
At one point the car stops and ul-Haq rolls down the window. Apparent admirers crowd the vehicle’s passenger side, with men taking turns grasping and even kissing the top Al Qaeda associate’s hand.
Two men take a few steps forward along with the slow-moving car in order to take a next to ul-Haq.
The car is then followed by a procession of vehicles carrying heavily-armed fighters, some flying the Taliban’s flag.
Asked about ul-Haq’s return to Afghanistan, the Pentagon told DailyMail.com that it does not comment on intelligence matters.
His return in the last hours of the US withdrawal effort comes after roughly 122,300 people were evacuated since the end of July. Approximately 1,200 people were evacuated on US military and coalition flights as of Monday, bringing the total number of people moved out of Kabul since the Taliban’s takeover to 116,700.
Flights will continue on Monday – 17 jets are expected to take more than 3,000 people out of Kabul, the majority of whom are Afghan.
The US Treasury added ul-Haq to its list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists in 2001. He’s also sanctioned by the United Nations and the United Kingdom.
Since the militant group’s takeover, concerns have arisen that it would turn the country into a ripe environment for other terrorist organizations to grow.
Intelligence reports estimated an Al Qaeda resurgence within 18 to 24 months after the US withdrawal.
‘It is virtually certain that Al Qaeda will reestablish a safe haven in Afghanistan and use it to plot terrorism against the United States and others,’ former State Department coordinator Nathan Sales told the New York Times.