The US military has completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan to end a brutal 20-year war – one that started and ended with the hardline Taliban in power, despite billions of dollars spent trying to rebuild the conflict-wracked country.
Celebratory gunfire rang out in Kabul in the early hours of today, and elated senior Taliban officials hailed the event as a watershed moment.
The withdrawal came after the fraught final days of a frantic mission to evacuate tens of thousands of Americans and Afghans who had helped the US-led war effort – and which left scores of Afghans and 13 US troops dead in a suicide attack last week.
The withdrawal came before the end of Aug 31, the actual deadline set by President Joe Biden to call time on America’s longest war – one that ultimately claimed the lives of more than 2,400 US service members.
US General Kenneth McKenzie told reporters, “I’m here to announce the completion of our withdrawal from Afghanistan and the end of the military mission to evacuate American citizens.”
The final flight left just before the start of Tuesday in Kabul.
The evacuation flights have taken more than 123,000 people out of Kabul airport, according to McKenzie, but he admitted not everyone who wanted to leave was able to, and that the “diplomatic mission” to allow others to leave will continue.
President Biden said he would address the nation on Tuesday in Washington.