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Departure of Last US Planes Ends 20-Year War

Pentagon, Taliban say last planes left just before midnight Kabul time
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 30, 2021 4:00 PM CDT
Pentagon, Taliban Say Last US Planes Have Left
Taliban fighters wave from the back of a pickup truck, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Aug. 30, 2021.   (AP Photo/Khwaja Tawfiq Sediqi)

(Newser) – Taliban guards at Kabul's airport and officials at the Pentagon have confirmed that the last US planes have flown out. Celebratory gunfire erupted across the Afghan capital marking the symbolic end of 20 years of war, with the Taliban back in power, the AP reports. In Washington, the US confirmed the withdrawal of its last troops, which faced a self-imposed Tuesday deadline. In announcing the completion of the evacuation and war effort. Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of US Central Command, said the last planes took off from Kabul airport at 3:29pm Washington time, or one minute before midnight in Kabul. The evacuation effort, set to end Aug 31, was wrapped up a full day early, with military equipment loaded onto transport planes before the last US service members flew out, reports the New York Times.

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"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 September 11 2001," McKenzie said, per the Guardian. "It is a mission that brought Osama bin Laden to justice along with many of his al-Qaeda co-conspirators. The cost, he said, was "2,461 US service members and civilians killed and more than 20,000 who were injured."

Earlier Monday, Islamic State militants fired a volley of rockets at Kabul’s rapidly emptying international airport without hurting anyone. All day, US military cargo jets came and went despite the rocket attack. The Taliban had earlier released a video shot from the airport's grounds, saying the Americans had removed or destroyed most of their equipment and that troop numbers were far lower. "It looks like today will be the last day," one of the fighters said. In the last 24 hours, the American military evacuated about 1,200 people on 26 C-17 flights, while two coalition flights flew out 50 others, the White House said. (Read more Afghanistan stories.)

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