The last US troops have flown out of Afghanistan – bringing an end to 20 years of war
The final military aircraft left Hamid Karzai International airport at around midnight on August 31, local time – as one official said: “Final plane is wheels up. War is over.”
Marine General Frank McKenzie, the head of the US Central Command, made a formal announcement at a Pentagon news briefing.
But he warned some US citizens who wanted to leave Afghanistan remain in the country following the departure.
“There’s a lot of heartbreak associated with this departure. We did not get everybody out that we wanted to get out,” he said.
“But I think if we’d stayed another 10 days, we wouldn’t have gotten everybody out.”
Some members of the Taliban leadership reportedly arrived at Kabul airport, and have been speaking to reporters on the runway.
AFP news agency quoted the Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid as saying: “Congratulations to Afghanistan… this victory belongs to us all.”
“We want to have good relations with the US and the world. We welcome good diplomatic relations with them all,” he added.
President Joe Biden said he would speak on the withdrawal on August 31, US time.
But in a statement, he praised the “unmatched professionalism, courage, and resolve” of the troops involved in the airlift
And he added: “For now, I will report that it was the unanimous recommendation of the Joint Chiefs and of all of our commanders on the ground to end our airlift mission as planned.”
“The Taliban had made commitments on safe passage and the world will hold them to their commitments.”
( Image: US Central Command (CENTCOM)/AFP)
Videos online showed the Taliban celebrating with gunfire as the troops left, as the group promised “full independence” for the country.
A NOTAM has now been issued for the airport – a notice to airmen.
This says that the airport is “uncontrolled” and any planes looking to land there should “use extreme caution”.
The US, UK and other nations have been scrambling to evacuate their citizens since the Taliban took over earlier this month.
And the evacuations became even more dangerous when a suicide bomb blast claimed by Islamic State killed 13 US service members.
At least 100 Afghan nationals also lost their lives in the attack on Thursday.
The US first invaded the Middle Eastern country in late 2001, aided by its allies, partly in response to the 9/11 terror attacks.
( Image:Iranian Red Crescent / Avalon)
Between 171,000 and 174,000 deaths have occurred in Afghanistan including troops from all sides, civilians, journalists and human rights workers since the war began, according to Brown University’s Costs of War project.
More than 122,000 people have been flown out of Afghanistan since August 14, when the mass exit began.
UK evacuation flights purely for civilians finished on August 29, the Ministry of Defence said.
The new Taliban regime now faces international pressure to respect human rights and provide safe passage for those who still wish to escape its rule following the passing of a UN Security Council resolution.
( Image:MARCUS YAM/LOS ANGELES TIMES/REX/Shutterstock)
The council adopted a resolution in New York – with Russia and China abstaining rather than wielding their vetoes – in what the UK hopes is a step towards a unified international response.
The UK’s ambassador to the UN, Dame Barbara Woodward, said: “We have been clear that the Taliban must adhere to their own stated commitments to ensure safe passage beyond August 31.”
The Security Council also made clear that Afghanistan must never again become a “safe haven” for international terrorists, Dame Barbara said, as she stressed “a co-ordinated approach will be vital to counter any extremist threat emanating from Afghanistan.
The humanitarian situation also needs to be urgently addressed – with complete access for UN agencies and aid organisations – and the progress made on human rights in the 20 years since the US-led coalition became involved in Afghanistan must also be protected, she said.
“Today’s resolution is an important step towards a unified international response to the situation in Afghanistan,” Dame Barbara said.
“We will continue to build on this to ensure the council holds the Taliban accountable on its commitments.
( Image: AFP via Getty Images)
“The Taliban will be judged by the international community on the basis of their actions on the ground, not their words.”
Earlier, on a day of intense diplomatic activity, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab set out his hopes for international alliances to be formed to exert a “moderating influence” on the Taliban.
Mr Raab’s intervention came at a US-convened meeting for the G7 group of industrialised democracies: the UK, US, Canada, Japan, Germany, France and Italy, along with representatives from the EU, Turkey, Qatar and the Nato alliance.
The focus on ensuring safe passage for eligible Afghans comes with uncertainty about how many might seek to reach the UK and how they can hope to make the journey following the end of the airlift.
( Image: AFP via Getty Images)
Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly said it was impossible to estimate how many people eligible to come to the UK had been left behind after evacuation flights finished.
About 15,000 people had been evacuated from Afghanistan in a “herculean” effort, Mr Cleverly said, but Labour has claimed about 5,000 may have been left behind.
Violence continued in Kabul up to the withdrawal of the US.
(Image: AFP via Getty Images)
Rocket fire, apparently targeting Kabul’s international airport, struck a nearby neighbourhood on Monday.
The affiliate of the so-called Islamic State in Afghanistan, Isis-K, claimed responsibility, saying it fired at least six rockets at the airport.