Pentagon announces last U.S. troops have left Afghanistan

The Pentagon announced Monday that the last U.S. troops had left Afghanistan, ending America’s longest war. “Every single U.S. service member is out of Afghanistan, I can say that with absolute certainty,” General Kenneth F. McKenzie, the head of the U.S. Central Command, said at a briefing.

“Your service will never be forgotten,” McKenzie said of U.S. troops who served in Afghanistan. It has been nearly 20 years since the U.S. military entered Afghanistan after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. 

McKenzie, who has served in Afghanistan and whose son has served there as well, said he felt “conflicted” about it but was “focused” for the past few weeks on the mission at hand to evacuate the American citizens and at-risk Afghans who helped U.S. troops from the country.

McKenzie acknowledged that “we did not get out everybody we wanted to get out,” estimating that several hundred were unable to evacuated. There were no American civilians on the last five jets to leave Afghanistan, and McKenzie said the ability to evacuate Americans ended about 12 hours before the last military flight out. 

The U.S. has relocated more than 122,300 people from Afghanistan since the end of July, including 5,400 American citizens, Army Major General Hank Taylor told reporters during the Pentagon briefing.

McKenzie said the Taliban has been “pragmatic” in the last couple of weeks as the U.S. withdrew troops and evacuated civilians. He said “there was no discussion of turning anything over or anything at all.”

“They wanted us out and we wanted to get out,” McKenzie said about the Taliban. 

He noted the last 18 days since Kabul fell to the Taliban have been “challenging.” 

On Thursday, 13 U.S. service members and scores of Afghans were killed in a suicide bombing by an ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan known as ISIS-K

McKenzie said he will “never forget” every Marine, sailor and soldier who died. He said the mission in Afghanistan has shifted from a military mission to a diplomatic one. 

The White House said Monday that in a 24-hour span from Sunday morning to Monday, the U.S. evacuated 1,200 people from Kabul, with 26 military flights and two coalition flights carrying evacuees out of Kabul. 

Over a 24-hour period the prior day, from early Saturday into early Sunday, roughly 2,900 people were evacuated, with 32 military flights and nine coalition aircraft departing Kabul’s airport.

Melissa Quinn contributed to this report.