Last US plane leaves Kabul airport, ending 20-year occupation

The U.S. says it'll use diplomatic efforts to extract last remaining Americans and Afghan allies.

Kayla Wong | August 31, 2021, 01:01 PM

With the departure of the last U.S. plane from the Hamid Karzai International Airport, the U.S. has completed the withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan on Aug. 30 (U.S. time).

End of 20-year insurgency

In a statement released by the White House, U.S. President Joe Biden thanked the military for their "execution of the dangerous retrograde from Afghanistan as scheduled".

The last few days of the 20-year occupation was marked by chaos and bloodshed as the U.S. dealt with attacks from the Afghan offshoot of ISIS, known as ISIS-K, all while trying to coordinate a massive evacuation of people out from the country.

As the last U.S. plane left, Taliban fighters celebrated the U.S. departure from the country by firing shots into the sky, AP reported.

A Taliban fighter was reported as saying, "I cannot express my happiness in words... Our 20 years of sacrifice worked."

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Majahid said with the U.S. out of Kabul airport, Afghanistan has gotten "its full independence".

The U.S., however, had not managed to "get everybody out that [they] wanted to get out," head of U.S. Central Command, Frank McKenzie, said.

More than 123,000 people had been evacuated from Kabul, including around 6,000 Americans, according to The New York Times.

According to Biden, the Americans who remain are "likely close to 100".

U.S. will use "diplomacy" to get remaining Americans and Afghan partners out

In his statement, Biden had noted ongoing diplomatic efforts in Afghanistan to reopen the airport to allow for continued departure for those who want to leave.

"The Taliban has made commitments on safe passage and the world will hold them to their commitments," Biden said.

After the U.S. military announced its complete withdrawal from the country, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken referred to the move as a "new chapter of America's engagement with Afghanistan", adding that the U.S. will lead with its "diplomacy".

Striking a pensive tone, he said the present moment "demands reflection".

The U.S.' "20-year endeavour" had failed to install a Western-style government despite sinking billions of dollars. Tens of thousands have died as a result of war, with civilian casualties numbering at least 71,332, according to the Watson Institute at Brown University.

In addition, around 75,000 Afghan soldiers and police officers, as well as 2,500 American soldiers, had perished in the war.

"We must learn its lessons, and allow those lessons to shape how we think about fundamental questions of national security and foreign policy," Blinken said.

“We owe that to future diplomats, policymakers, military leaders, service members. We owe that to the American people.”

Top image via Getty Images