America's Longest War Ends: Pentagon Announces Withdrawal of US Troops From Afghanistan
20:37 GMT 30.08.2021 (Updated: 22:15 GMT 30.08.2021)
The US Department of State issued a statement on Sunday claiming Washington has received "assurances" from the Taliban* that evacuees with legal travel documents will still be able to leave the country. The militant group has asserted they will permit normal travel at the international airport following the Tuesday completion of the US withdrawal.
The US Department of Defense confirmed on Monday that the US' 20-year presence in Afghanistan came to a close when the final Boeing C-17 Globemaster departed from Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport around 3:29 p.m. Eastern Time.
"The last manned aircraft is now clearing the airspace above Afghanistan," General Kenneth F. McKenzie, Jr., commander of US Central Command, said during a news conference on the matter. Maj. Gen. Christopher Donahue, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, and US Ambassador to Afghanistan Ross Wilson were both aboard the aircraft.
Between August 14 and August 30, more than 123,000 civilians were evacuated from Afghanistan by the US and allied forces, according to Pentagon data.
The CENTCOM commander said that while US forces have reached the conclusion of their evacuation mission in Afghanistan, a "diplomatic mission" remains as Washington works to ensure the safe departure of fleeing Afghans, third-country nationals and US citizens who were eligible to travel, but chose to stay for whatever reason.
Members of the Taliban were observed firing off celebratory shots, and overheard cheering in social media footage reportedly captured at, and near the airport.
However, "there were no evacuees at the airport when US' last flight left," McKenzie emphasized.
Shortly after mass evacuations kicked off, officials from US President Joe Biden's administration have expressed that they viewed the Taliban as a resource and an unlikely ally in counter operations against terrorist groups like Daesh-K*.
Maj. Gen. Donahue led the US' secretive talks with its Taliban counterparts.
When questioned about the present-day security of the airport now under Taliban control, the CENTCOM commander pivoted and spoke glowingly of the terrorist group's assistance amid the evacuations.
"I can tell you this about what the Taliban has done: they established a firm perimeter outside of the airfield to prevent people from coming on the airfield during our departure," McKenzie told reporters, noting that US officials did not inform the Taliban of its departures.
"They were actually very helpful and useful to us as we closed down operations," he added.
President Biden is expected to address
the American people on Tuesday about the complete withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan.
*The Taliban and Daesh (also known as ISIS/ISIL/IS) are terrorist organizations outlawed in Russia and many other states.