Gen. Frank McKenzie, the commander of US Central Command, announced on Aug. 30 that the last US military planes had left Afghanistan. The US departure marked the end of a fraught, chaotic and bloody exit from the United States’ longest war.
President Biden weighed in with a statement later that day and thanked the final US forces serving in Afghanistan for executing the “dangerous retrograde from Afghanistan as scheduled,” with no further loss of American lives.
The airlift, which started as a seemingly haphazard and hastily organized effort, was scarred by the deaths of 13 service members and the death sentence hanging over Afghan translators who helped US troops and diplomats but were unable to escape the country.
In addition, Biden’s decision to leave will be shadowed by questions about whether and how well the threat of terrorism emanating from Afghanistan has really been addressed.
In the 24 hours leading up to that Monday morning, 26 military C-17 aircraft lifted off from Kabul carrying 1,200 evacuees, according to Gen. Hank Taylor, the deputy director of regional operations for the Joint Staff, who spoke alongside Pentagon press secretary Kirby at a Pentagon briefing earlier Monday.
In total, 28 flights departed from Kabul airport in that 24-hour window, Taylor said.
In the same 24-hour period, the US conducted a drone strike that killed multiple civilians, including children, the Kabul airport was targeted by rocket fire, and military officials continued to warn of active, specific threats to the evacuation effort.
The “threat stream is still real. It’s still active, and, in many cases, it’s still specific,” Kirby said at the Monday morning briefing when asked if another attack on the airport was still likely. Taylor added that military operations were continuing with a focus on the security of the US troops in Kabul, and the military would have the capability to evacuate Afghans until the very end.
“We’re taking it very seriously and we will right up until the end,” Kirby said.
Along with the military exit, the US pulled out all diplomatic representation, leaving open the question of whether it will formally recognize the Taliban as the rulers of Afghanistan.
The President has already committed to prolonging some US engagement with Afghanistan, telling his military commanders that they should “stop at nothing” to make ISIS pay for the service members’ deaths, Psaki said Monday.
Read more about the US withdrawal in Afghanistan here.