NBC has confirmed with the Department of Defense that the last Air Force transport plane carrying U.S. troops has left Kabul, Afghanistan, hours ahead of the official August 31 deadline. The chaotic exit cost 13 American lives, 180 Afghan deaths, and scores of injuries.
In a press briefing, General Kenneth McKenzie said, “I am 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. The last C-17 lifted of from Hamid Karzai International Airport on August 30th, this afternoon at 3:29 p.m. eastern time. The last manned aircraft is now clearing the airspace above Afghanistan.”
There are still several hundred Americans in the country, according to NBC. As of this morning, CNN reporter Clarissa Ward was in touch with American citizens unable to get to the airport. According to Andrea Mitchell, none of the last five planes to leave Hamid Karzai International Airport contained any Americans. Rescue operations ended after the American drone strike of a car allegedly filled with explosives and headed for the airport in Kabul earlier today.
The administration has said the rescue operations would continue. A State Department memo issued earlier today in cooperation with dozens of other nations set the expectation that these evacuations will continue. However, it is not clear how the NATO countries plan to accomplish future missions with no diplomatic presence.
When the last plane went wheels up, the Taliban officially took control of the country. Earlier, members of the radical Islamist group were seen flying Black Hawk helicopters abandoned in the hasty evacuation of Bagram Air Base. The Taliban publicly promised amnesty for Afghans who worked with U.S. and coalition forces. Whether this is a commitment they intend to keep will remain to be seen.
WATCH General McKenize’s announcement:
Pentagon announces the last plane carrying US forces has left Afghanistan, capping a 20-year war. pic.twitter.com/A8Ht3TiDUj
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) August 30, 2021