The Pentagon announced the last American military planes have left Afghanistan, fulfilling President Joe Biden’s promise to the end of the United States’ longest war before the September 11 anniversary.
The departure is the first time in nearly two decades that the US and its allies have not had troops on the ground in Afghanistan, where Republican President George Bush deployed military forces nearly 20 years ago to hunt down Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks.
“I’m here to announce the completion of our withdrawal from Afghanistan,” said Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., commander of U.S. Central Command. “The last C-17 lifted off from Hamad Karzai International Airport on August 30, this afternoon, at 3:29 p.m., East Coast time. And the last manned aircraft is now clear of the airspace above Afghanistan.”
Biden thanked the final US forces serving in Afghanistan for executing the “dangerous retrograde from Afghanistan as scheduled,” with no further loss of American lives, in a statement released by the White House Monday evening.
“The past 17 days have seen our troops execute the largest airlift in US history, evacuating over 120,000 US citizens, citizens of our allies, and Afghan allies of the United States. They have done it with unmatched courage, professionalism, and resolve,” the President wrote in the statement released Monday night.
The evacuation effort met Biden’s withdrawal deadline, but has been marked by chaotic and bloody events. More than 170 people were killed, including 13 American service members, in last week’s attack near Kabul’s airport.
Sen. Mitt Romney called the decision to leave Americans, Afghans behind’ a ‘moral stain’ placed blame on both the Biden and Trump administrations for the current situation in Afghanistan,
though at least some of the Afghans who partnered with America over the past two decades are on track to get evacuated.
Biden has rebutted criticisms about the chaotic departure and the fate of women and girls under the Taliban, as a growing chorus of hawks has begun saying the American withdrawal is a mistake.