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The last US troops leave Afghanistan after 20 years of war

The 20-year war of the US military in Afghanistan is now officially over.

On Monday evening in Kabul, just one minute before midnight and the deadline set by US President Joe Biden himself for the withdrawal of US forces on March 31st.

The 20-year war of the US military in Afghanistan is now officially over.

On Monday evening in Kabul, just one minute before midnight and the deadline set by US President Joe Biden himself for the withdrawal of US forces on March 31st.

The last US officials to leave Afghanistan were Gen. Christopher Donahue, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, and Ross Wilson, the acting US ambassador to Afghanistan, and Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr., commander of the US Central Command.

"Every single US soldier is out of Afghanistan now," McKenzie said. "I can say that with absolute certainty."

Officials described the evacuation of 123,000 people, most of them Afghans, as the largest non-combative mission in US history. The fate of tens of thousands of other vulnerable Afghans – including interpreters and others who supported the US war effort, women's rights activists and journalists – remains unclear.

"We didn't get everyone out that we wanted out," admitted McKenzie.

In a speech on Monday evening, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that the United States would cease its embassy presence in Afghanistan and instead open a new diplomatic outpost to manage relations with Afghanistan in Doha, Qatar.

“The military mission is over. A new diplomatic mission has started, ”said Blinken.

The new office will be headed by Ian McCary, the former deputy head of mission at the US Embassy in Kabul, and will lead consular work and provide humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, Blinken said.

Biden government officials have insisted that anyone wishing to leave can leave safely with the consent of the Taliban – even if terrorists lurk in Kabul and the Taliban control the country.

But numerous reports from Kabul about Taliban fighters who have turned away potential evacuees cast doubts about the assurances of the USA.

Blinken said up to 200 US citizens, probably closer to 100, want to stay in Afghanistan and leave the country. “We're trying to pinpoint how many. We go through manifestos and call and write our way through our lists, "to contact them," Blinken said. "Our commitment to them has no deadline."

The US withdrawal essentially left Kabul airport out of service, with no air traffic control for landing planes, according to a notice sent to Airmen when the US military withdrew, leaving land borders as the only point of departure. Taliban fighters reportedly celebrated by shooting outside the airport gates as US military transport planes took off.

The last Afghans to evacuate the country included 2,800 local employees occupying the US embassy in Kabul, according to an internal telegram from the State Department received from Foreign Policy. The embassy was once the largest foreign diplomatic outpost in the world, with thousands of staff from the State Department, Department of Defense, and other agencies, as well as contractors, occupying the sprawling site. But it was quickly evacuated and abandoned on August 15 when the Taliban invaded Kabul. A core crew of US diplomats has returned to Kabul airport to assist with the evacuation of US citizens and vulnerable Afghans.

The Biden administration was forced to hastily plan the exit of US citizens and Afghan allies after the Taliban swept back the Afghan national forces in a summer offensive that led to the collapse of the Afghan government. Former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country unexpectedly when the capital fell to the Taliban, reportedly without or without warning to the US government or his own aides.

The American exit puts the Biden administration in an awkward position, forcing it to continue evacuation efforts in a country controlled by a US enemy that has no US military or diplomatic presence on the ground. Evacuations in recent days were rocked by a suicide bombing that rocked the airport on August 26, killing at least 92 people, including 13 US soldiers, on the deadliest day for the US military in Afghanistan in more than a decade.

The branch of the Islamic State in Afghanistan adopted the attacks that led to a series of US drone strikes against the group in rural Nangarhar province and Kabul – the second allegedly killing several civilians.

Blinken claimed the Taliban were committed to preventing Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for terrorist groups. "We will hold them accountable for this commitment," he said, adding that the United States will make counter-terrorism a priority without relying on the Taliban's word for it.

He also said the end of the US mission “requires reflection”.

“We must learn lessons from this and let those lessons shape our thinking on fundamental issues of national security and foreign policy. We owe it to future diplomats, politicians, military leaders and service leaders, ”he said. "We owe it to the American people."

Update, 08/30/2021: This article has been updated with comments from Blinken.

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