Washington, Aug 30 (EFE).- The United States on Monday said that it had ended its military mission in Afghanistan after 20 years of war with the departure from Kabul of the last US aircraft carrying American troops.
The commander of the US Central Command, Gen. Frank McKenzie, made the announcement at a tele-press conference at the Pentagon.
“Tonight’s withdrawal signifies both the end of the military component of the evacuation, but also the end of the nearly 20-year mission that began in Afghanistan shortly after Sept. 11, 2001,” McKenzie said. “It’s a mission that brought Osama bin Laden to a just end, along with many of his Al-Qaeda co-conspirators.”
He also said that the US military mission to evacuate American citizens, third-country nationals and vulnerable Afghans had come to an end, adding that the overall mission to Afghanistan “was not a cheap mission. The cost was at 2,461 US service members and civilians, and more than 20,000 injured. Sadly, that includes 13 US service members who were killed last week by an ISIS-K suicide bomber,” referring to the Islamic State Khorasan terrorist group.
McKenzie said that the last US military aircraft, a C-17, took off from the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Monday at 3:29 pm, US Eastern Time.
In all, McKenzie said that 123,000 civilians were evacuated in the huge international airlift operation starting on Aug. 14, the day before the Taliban took control of Kabul, including more than 6,000 US citizens who said they wanted to leave the Central Asian country now that the Taliban have taken over.
Of the 123,000 figure, 79,000 civilians were evacuated on US aircraft, McKenzie said, although the numbers do not include the some 5,800 US military personnel who had been deployed to Kabul in recent weeks to ensure the protection of the airport during the evacuation.
Those military forces, however, now have been withdrawn, according to McKenzie.
Nevertheless, McKenzie admitted that “We did not get everybody out that we wanted to get out, but I think if we stayed another 10 days, we wouldn’t have gotten everybody out who we wanted to get out.”
The CENTCOM commander said that the number of US citizens who could not be evacuated was in the “very low hundreds.”
It it not known how many of Washington’s Afghan allies were left behind.
“While the military evacuation is complete, the diplomatic mission to ensure additional U.S. citizens and eligible Afghans who want to leave continues,” the CENTCOM commander said.
The last military flight out of Kabul was carrying acting US Ambassador to Afghanistan Ross Wilson, who has served in that role since 2020.
Despite the finalization of the withdrawal, McKenzie said that the US will continue to reserve the right to attack Al Qaeda or Islamic State targets in Afghanistan, if necessary.
The US finished its withdrawal within the time frame established by President Joe Biden, who had set Aug. 31 as the deadline for finishing the US military’s evacuation effort.