The Afghanistan evacuation mission has concluded along with the 20-year war.
General Frank McKenzie, head of US Central Command, said Monday, August 30th, the last C-17 Globemaster III took off right before midnight Kabul time. For the first time since late 2001, there are no US service members in Afghanistan.
“There’s a lot of heartbreak associated with this departure,” said General Frank McKenzie. Unfortunately, not everyone they wanted to help get out did so successfully. However, he stated if they stayed another ten days, the number of casualties would have been far worse.
There have been reports of celebratory gunfire from the Taliban after the final US aircraft took off from Kabul.
The final weeks of the war were one of the military’s hardest. Thousands of troops hurried in to hold Hamid Karzai International Airport as the Afghan government collapsed with surprising speed. The Taliban quickly filled the position of power.
The unprecedented airlift effort to rush Americans and Afghan allies to safety became the largest noncombatant evacuation operation in US military history. About 123,000 people evacuated in all. On August 14th, more than 79,000 civilians evacuated on flights one by one. The aircraft used was primarily C-17s. The massive cargo bays allowed hundreds of refugees at times.
The evacuation mission saw flag-draped coffins arrive at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. On August 26th, a suicide bomber attacked the airport’s Abbey Gate. Leaving US troops and many Afghans crammed inside, trying to get to the airport. The explosion killed 13 US troops, 11 Marines, a sailor, and a soldier. It wounded more than 20 other troops and killed or wounded hundreds of Afghans.
The Kabul attack marked one of the deadliest days of the war for the US. It brought the final number of service members killed in Afghanistan to 2,461. More than 20,000 troops were wounded in Afghanistan.
General Frank McKenzie said he felt deeply saddened by the losses.
The Islamic State’s Afghanistan branch, ISIS-Khorasan claimed responsibility for the attack.
On Friday, the US responded with two drone strikes. It killed two people the military claimed were ISIS organizers. On Sunday, they targeted a car in Kabul carrying explosive material intended for another attack.
According to The New York Times, the Pentagon did not immediately dispute. However, the last airstrike may have resulted in up to 10 civilian casualties.
The Taliban and ISIS-K are in a war of their own. This prompted a pseudo-alliance between the US and the Taliban. General McKenzie described the Taliban as “pragmatic.” He said the terror group had an absolute interest in the US leaving quickly. This motivated them to try and facilitate a smooth withdrawal by securing areas outside of the airport.
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