All service members of the United States military have departed Afghanistan, ending the country’s longest war.
On Monday (Aug. 30), Gen. Frank McKenzie announced the news at the Pentagon. “I’m here to announce the completion of our withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the end of the military mission to evacuate American citizens, third country nationals, and vulnerable Afghans,” he told reporters. “The last C-17 lifted off from Hamid Karzai International Airport on August 30th, this afternoon, at 3:29 p.m. East Coast time, and the last manned aircraft is now clearing the airspace above Afghanistan.”
This will be the first time in 20 years that the U.S. and its allies have not had troops on the ground in the South Asian country.
As of Monday, more than 122,000 people have been evacuated from Hamid Karzai International Airport since July, including 5,400 Americans. A senior State Department official said there are possibly 250 more Americans who remain in Afghanistan. The U.S. has reportedly spoken to the Taliban about allowing those individuals to evacuate after the Aug. 31 deadline.
“We believe there’s still a small number who remain, and we’re trying to determine exactly how many,” the official told reporters. “We are going through manifests of people who have departed, we are calling and texting and WhatsApping and emailing our lists, in an effort to have a more concrete figure regarding how many Americans may remain.”
After the last U.S. military aircraft left Afghanistan, parts of Kabul erupted in gunfire to celebrate the departure. According to CNN, Taliban fighters were in the streets at the capital firing automatic weapons into the air.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is now banning any U.S. aircraft from flying at any altitude over Afghanistan. Anyone who wants to fly into, out of or over the country has to receive prior permission from the FAA.