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USA ends 20 years of war in Afghanistan with last evacuation flights from Kabul

A handout photo of a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.

Handout | Getty Images News

WASHINGTON – America's longest war is over.

The United States has ended its withdrawal efforts from the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, the Pentagon announced on Monday, effectively ending a two-decade conflict that began not long after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Following the Pentagon's announcement, President Joe Biden thanked the American military in a statement Monday evening and said he would speak to the nation on Tuesday afternoon about his decision not to extend the U.S. mission in Afghanistan beyond August 31.

"In the past 17 days, our forces carried out the largest airlift in US history, evacuating over 120,000 US citizens, citizens of our allies and Afghan allies of the United States," the president said in the statement.

"They did it with unparalleled courage, professionalism and determination. Now our 20-year military presence in Afghanistan has come to an end."

In the last week of the withdrawal, ISIS-K terrorists killed 13 US soldiers and dozens of Afghans in an attack outside the airport. US forces retaliated and launched strikes to thwart other attacks.

The last C-17 military cargo aircraft left Hamid Karzai International Airport on Monday afternoon Eastern Time, according to U.S. Marine Corps general Kenneth McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, last two weeks.

McKenzie, who oversees US military operations in the region, said the Taliban had no direct knowledge of the timing of the US military's departure, adding that local commanders "have chosen to keep this information very limited".

"But they were very helpful and useful to us when we shut down," McKenzie said of the Taliban.

McKenzie said there were no Americans on the last five flights from Kabul.

"We couldn't get any Americans out, this activity probably ended about 12 hours before we moved out. While we are continuing the mission and would have been ready to take them to the last minute, none of them made it to the airport," McKenzie said .

The four-star general added that there were no more evacuees at the airfield when the last C-17 took off and confirmed that all US soldiers and troops of the Afghan armed forces along with their families were also flown out of the air on Monday .

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said later Monday that fewer than 200 Americans are still seeking evacuation.

"Our commitment to you and all Americans in Afghanistan and around the world continues. The protection and well-being of Americans abroad remains the most important and long-lasting mission of the State Department," said the country's top diplomat in an evening address.

Early Monday, US and Allied forces evacuated 1,200 people from the Afghan capital on 26 military cargo plane flights in 24 hours, according to the latest White House figures.

About 122,800 people have been evacuated since the end of July, including about 6,000 U.S. citizens and their families.

"A new chapter of American engagement in Afghanistan has begun. It is one in which we will lead with our diplomacy. The military mission is over. A new diplomatic mission has begun," said Blinken.

Blinken added that the US has suspended its diplomatic presence in Kabul and will move these operations to Doha, Qatar.

"We will remain vigilant in monitoring threats ourselves and maintain robust counter-terrorism capabilities in the region to neutralize those threats if necessary – as we have seen in recent days through striking ISIS brokers and even threats in Afghanistan and in places around the." Environment have demonstrated the world in which we have no armed forces on the ground, "said Blinken.

The Taliban are returning to power

Taliban fighters patrol the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood in the city of Kabul, Afghanistan on Wednesday, August 18, 2021.

Rahmat Gül | AP

The US began its war in Afghanistan in October 2001, weeks after the 9/11 attacks. Back then, the Taliban offered refuge to al-Qaeda, the group that launched the devastating terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Since then, around 2,500 US soldiers have died in the conflict, which also killed more than 100,000 Afghan soldiers, police officers and civilians.

Now the Taliban are back in power.

In the final weeks of a planned exodus of foreign troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban achieved a number of shocking successes on the battlefield.

The Taliban occupied Bagram Air Base, a sprawling and once unshakable US military facility, less than two months after US commanders handed it over to the Afghan National Security and Defense Force.

In 2012, at its peak, Bagram saw more than 100,000 U.S. soldiers pass by. It was the largest US military facility in Afghanistan.

As the Taliban approached the capital, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country and western nations rushed to evacuate embassies amid deteriorating security conditions.

Biden ordered thousands of US troops to be sent to Kabul to help evacuate US embassy personnel and secure the area around the airport.

Meanwhile, thousands of Afghans poured onto the airport tarmac to flee Taliban rule.

Although the Afghan military, long supported by US and NATO coalition forces, is vastly outnumbered, the Taliban captured the presidential palace in Kabul on August 15.

In April, Biden ordered the full withdrawal of approximately 3,000 US troops from Afghanistan by September 11th. He later announced an updated schedule that said the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan would end by August 31.

After the Taliban takeover, Biden defended his decision that the US would leave the war-torn country.

“I fully support my decision. After 20 years, I've learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw US forces, ”Biden said a day after the Taliban collapsed Afghanistan.

"American forces cannot and should not fight in a war and die in a war that the Afghan armed forces are unwilling to wage for themselves," Biden said. "We gave them every chance to determine their future for themselves. We couldn't give them the will to fight for this future," he added.

Last US casualties in the war in Afghanistan

In this U.S. Air Force image, flag-draped transfer cases line the interior of a transport aircraft prior to a graceful transfer at Dover Air Force Base, Del. The fallen soldiers were killed while assisting evacuations in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Jason Minto | US Air Force

The Pentagon on Saturday released the names of the 13 US soldiers killed after a suicide bomber detonated an explosive near the gates of Kabul airport.

The August 26 attack that killed 11 Marines, one Marine and one Army soldier is currently under investigation.

On Sunday, the President and First Lady Jill Biden traveled to Dover Air Force Base to meet privately with the families of the fallen before watching the graceful delivery of American flag-draped coffins from a C-17 military cargo plane to a vehicle .

A dignified transfer is a solemn process in which the remains of fallen service workers are transported from an airplane to a waiting vehicle. It is carried out for every U.S. soldier killed in action.

The remains of the soldiers were flown from Kabul to Kuwait and then to Germany before arriving in Dover.

On Sunday, Biden participated in a worthy transfer for the first time since serving as president.

U.S. President Joe Biden will attend on Jan.

Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley also attended the dignified transfer, along with U.S. Marine Corps Commander Gen. David Berger, U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Gilday and US Air Force Col. Chip Hollinger, who oversaw the military logistics of the transfer.

The fallen include:

Marine Corps Staff Sgt.Din T. Hoover, 31, from Salt Lake City, Utah

Marine Corps Sgt.Johanny Rosariopichardo, 25, from Lawrence, Massachusetts

Marine Corps Sgt.Nicole L. Gee, 23, from Sacramento, California

Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, from Indio, California

Marine Corps Cpl. Daegan W. Page, 23, of Omaha, Nebraska

Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, 22, of Logansport, Indiana

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza, 20, from Rio Bravo, Texas

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz, 20, from St. Charles, Missouri

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, 20, of Jackson, Wyoming

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, 20, from Rancho Cucamonga, California

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui, 20, of Norco, California

Navy Hospitalman Maxton W. Soviak, 22, from Berlin Heights, Ohio

Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss, 23, of Corryton, Tennessee.

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