The U.S. military completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan on Monday, the Pentagon announced.
“I’m here to announce the completion of our withdrawal from Afghanistan and the end of the military mission to evacuation American citizens, third country nationals and vulnerable Afghans,” General Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, said in a video appearance at a Pentagon press conference.
The last American military plane took off from Hamid Karzai International Airport shortly after midnight in Afghanistan time. No American troops are left in the country, and members of the Afghan military helping to guard the airport, along with their families, were evacuated along with the last U.S. troops.
However, up to 250 American citizens attempting to leave Afghanistan were left in the country as of Sunday evening, a State Department spokesperson told ABC News on Monday. Thousands of Afghan allies of the U.S. also remain in the country.
“There’s a lot of heartbreak associated with this departure. We did not get everybody out that we wanted to get out,” McKenzie added later in the press conference. “But I think if we stayed another ten days we wouldn’t have gotten everybody out that we wanted to get out, and there still would have been people who would have been disappointed in that.”
The U.S. State Department “will now take the lead” on future evacuations, McKenzie said.
U.S. troops left shortly after midnight on August 31 Afghan time, the date set by President Biden for completion of the withdrawal. In the midst of evacuation efforts, thirteen American soldiers and close to 200 Afghans were killed in a suicide bombing at the Kabul airport on Thursday.
Earlier this year Biden argued it was “time to end America’s longest war.”
“We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan hoping to create the ideal conditions for our withdrawal, expecting a different result,” Biden said in April. “I am now the fourth American president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan. Two Republicans. Two Democrats. I will not pass this responsibility to a fifth.”