America's Longest War Ends As Last US Military Flight Leaves Kabul

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The United States has completed the longest war it waged abroad as the last US military flight has left Kabul airport Tuesday.

Keeping the August 31 deadline, the U.S. military evacuation of civilians and the removal of all U.S. forces from Afghanistan were completed on Tuesday, marking the end of a 20-year presence of US forces in Afghanistan.

The last military planes have left Kabul and the evacuation operation is over, Marine Corps Gen. Frank McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command told Pentagon reporters.

"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," McKenzie said via teleconference from his headquarters in Tampa. "The last C-17 lifted off from Hamid Karzai International Airport on August 30, this afternoon, at 3:29 p.m., East Coast time, and the last manned aircraft is now clearing the airspace above Afghanistan," he added.

The last C-17 departed with Army Maj. Gen. Chris Donahue, the commander of troops in Kabul, and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ross Wilson aboard.

The two-decades long US military mission in the war-ravaged country began shortly after the 9/11 attack, with a C-17 aircraft dropping humanitarian rations to starving Afghans, and American military might went after al-Qaida and the Taliban leaders that were sheltering Osama bin Laden and his cadres. It was a mission that brought Osama bin Laden to an end, along with many of his al-Qaida co-conspirators.

More than 800,000 American service members and 25,000 civilians served in Afghanistan over the almost 20-year mission. A total of 2,461 U.S. service members and civilians were killed and more than 20,000 were injured. That includes 13 U.S. service members who were killed last week by an Islamic State suicide bomber.

While two ISIS-K members were killed and one was injured in U.S. counterattack, the security situation in Afghanistan is still dangerous, said Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby.

The U.S. military has said since the departure from Afghanistan was announced that it has the ability to conduct "over-the-horizon" operations as part of its ongoing counter-terrorism mission. That means it would continue to be able to conduct an operation such as the drone strike in Nangarhar Province, without having to actually launch it from within Afghanistan.

While the military evacuation is complete, the diplomatic mission to ensure additional U.S. citizens and eligible Afghans who want to leave continues.

This was the largest non-combatant evacuation operation ever conducted by the U.S. military. President Joe Biden ordered the start of the NEO operation on August 14. Since then, U.S. military aircraft have evacuated more than 79,000 civilians from Hamid Karzai International Airport, which includes 6,000 Americans and more than 73,500 third country nationals and Afghan civilians. "In total, U.S. and coalition aircraft combined to evacuate more than 123,000 civilians, which were all enabled by U.S. military service members who were securing and operating the airfield," McKenzie said.

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