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Final flight leaves Afghanistan ending 20-year war, hundreds of Americans left behind

A U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III in flight. (New Jersey National Guard photo by Mark C. Olsen)
August 30, 2021

With the final military plane departing the now Taliban-controlled Kabul airport on Monday, the United States involvement in the 20-year war in Afghanistan has officially ended, leaving hundreds of Americans behind enemy lines.  

“I’m here to announce the completion of our mission in Afghanistan,” Marine Corps General Kenneth McKenzie told reporters in a briefing Monday, according to NBC News. “The last C-17 took off at 3:29 pm.”

“While the military evacuation is complete, the diplomatic mission to ensure additional U.S. citizens and eligible Afghans who want to leave continues,” McKenzie added.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration also issued a “notice to airmen” noting that “effective immediately,” the Hamid Karzai International Airport “is uncontrolled.”

“Final plane is wheels up. War is over,” a senior U.S. defense official told Newsweek.  

According to a senior State Department official, at least 250 Americans remain in Afghanistan.

“250 Americans are still in #Afghanistan, unable to make the last flights out — per senior @StateDept official speaking to @MarquardtA,” Charles Lister tweeted. “Not to mention the 10,000s of SIV-eligible individuals & their families, left behind to a deeply uncertain fate.”

News of the final flight of U.S. troops came around midnight local time, meeting the August 31 deadline set by President Joe Biden earlier this year just ahead of the 20th anniversary of the deadly terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001.

Earlier Monday, Maj. Gen William Taylor announced that over 122,000 people were evacuated from Afghanistan.

“As of today, more than 122,000, including 5,400 Americans, have been evacuated from Afghanistan,” Maj. Gen. William Taylor said.

“Military, civilian and contract personnel continue to work closely with both government and nongovernmental agencies to meet requirements and provide additional capabilities for families as they continue their transition,” he continued. “While operations in Afghanistan will conclude soon, the DOD effort to support the interagency is ongoing.”

Also on Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said President Biden “stands by his decision” to rapidly withdraw from Afghanistan over the last week.

“The president stands by his decision to bring our men and women home from Afghanistan,” Psaki said.

On Saturday, Biden warned that the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group could attempt another attack like the one that killed 13 U.S. service members at the Kabul airport last week.

Among the 13 killed were 11 U.S. Marines, 1 U.S. Army soldier, and 1 Navy corpsman, the Pentagon said. Family members and media reports on Friday had identified Navy corpsman Maxton Soviak, and Marines Kareem Nikoui, David Espinoza, Rylee McCollum, Jared Schmitz, Hunter Lopez, Taylor Hoover, Daegan William-Tyeler Page, Nicole Gee, Humberto Sanchez, Dylan Merola, Johanny Rosario Pichardo and Army soldier Ryan Knauss.