Afghanistan updates: All US troops have departed, Pentagon says

Written by on August 30, 2021

Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

(KABUL, Afghanistan) — Chaos has enveloped Kabul after Afghanistan’s government collapsed and the Taliban seized control, all but ending America’s 20-year campaign as it began: under Taliban rule.

Officials said the terror group ISIS-K carried out what the Pentagon called a “complex attack” outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Thursday, killing at least 13 American service members and wounding 20, among scores of Afghan casualties.

When President Joe Biden sat down with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos for an exclusive one-on-one interview at the White House last week, the president’s first interview since the withdrawal from Afghanistan, he warned of the threat of attacks on the ground.

Here are the latest developments. All times Eastern:

Aug 30, 5:06 pm
No US civilians evacuated in final 12 hours: McKenzie

No American civilians made it out on the final five flights that took off from the Kabul airport, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command, said.

He said that “the vast majority” of U.S. civilians were able to leave and that the evacuation activity ended about 12 hours before the final American flight took off, he said.

The U.S. had continued to reach out to Americans still there “and were prepared to bring them on,” but none made it to the airport, he said.

“We have evacuated more than 6,000 U.S. civilians, which we believe represents the vast majority of those who wanted to leave at this time,” McKenzie said.

Aug 30, 5:01 pm
Number of Americans left in Afghanistan in the ‘low 100s’

There are still Americans left in Afghanistan that the United States is trying to get out of the country, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command, said.

“I believe our Department of State is going to work very hard to allow any American citizens that are left, and we think the citizens that were not brought outnumber in the low — very low 100s,” McKenzie said. “I believe that we’re going to be able to get those people out.”

There were no evacuees left at the airport when the last U.S. flight left, he said.

McKenzie also said the U.S. would also “negotiate very hard, and very aggressively, to get our other Afghan partners out.”

Aug 30, 4:54 pm
Largest noncombatant evacuation in US military history: McKenzie

In his remarks, Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command, said the evacuation effort in Kabul was the largest noncombatant evacuation in U.S. military’s history.

Since Aug. 14 and over an 18-day period, U.S. Military aircraft have evacuated more than 79,000 civilians from Hamid Karzai International Airport, McKenzie said.

“That includes 6,000 Americans and more than 73,500 third country nationals and Afghan civilians, he said. “This last category includes special immigrant visas, consular staff, at-risk Afghans and their families. In total, U.S. and coalition aircraft combined to evacuate more than 123,000 civilians which were enabled by U.S. military service members who were securing and operating the airfield.”

On average, McKenzie said the U.S. evacuated 100,000 civilians per day, which includes 16 days of evacuations and over 19,000 people on a single day. These numbers do not include the roughly 5,000 service members and their equipment that was sent to Afghanistan to secure the airfield and who were withdrawn at the conclusion of the mission, he continued.

Aug 30, 4:44 pm
Final US plane has cleared Afghan airspace

The final American plane lifted off from Kabul’s airport at 3:29 p.m. ET Monday and has cleared Afghan airspace, Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command, announced at a Pentagon briefing.

“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 Sept. 11, 2001,” McKenzie said Monday.

Aug 30, 4:35 pm
All US troops have departed Afghanistan: Pentagon

All U.S. troops have departed Afghanistan, according to the Department of Defense, concluding America’s military ground presence there and its longest war.

Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command, made the announcement from the headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base, in Tampa, Florida, after being introduced in the Pentagon Briefing Room by press secretary John Kirby.

Acknowledging that the withdrawal has been completed, McKenzie said the last U.S. military plane has cleared Afghan airspace.

He said that the U.S. military’s 20-year mission in Afghanistan is over.

Aug 30, 3:10 pm
‘Our commitment does not waiver’: White House on Americans who may be left behind

While White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the U.S. military is continuing to evacuate Americans for as long as it can ahead of Biden’s deadline, she was asked if the White House has a message to Americans who may get left behind that still want to get out.

“Our message is our commitment is enduring, and our commitment does not waiver as we bring our men and women from the military home,” Psaki said.

When asked if Pres. Biden regrets his decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, WH press sec. Psaki tells @sramosABC: “A day or a week where you lose 13 service members is the worst day or the worst week of your presidency. And that remains the case.”

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) August 30, 2021

She went on to outline a few ongoing steps the Biden administration is taking to ensure evacuations beyond Aug. 31, leaning heavily on Secretary of State Antony Blinken meeting with international partners and their putting pressure on the Taliban to keep the airport in Kabul open for safe passage.

“On Friday, one of the Taliban leaders delivered public remarks conveying that individuals who wish to leave after the 31st would be able to do so. That does not mean we trust what they say, but there is an enormous amount of international leverage,” Psaki said. “And there is also of course a discussion about what our diplomatic presence may look like moving forward.”

As of Sunday night, there were up to 250 U.S. citizens still in Afghanistan trying to evacuate, a State Department spokesperson told ABC News. There are thousands of desperate Afghans also clinging to hopes of leaving the country under Taliban rule.

“We need to figure out how to work with partners to reopen the civilian airport and ensure that is a mechanism, that is an area where there is mutual interest by the United States, by international organizations like the World Food Program who want assistance in, and by the Taliban to get these airports operational and running,” she said.

Aug 30, 2:17 pm
US, UK, France push for UN Security Council resolution calling on Taliban to ensure ‘safe passage’ for Afghans, others

The United States, United Kingdom and France are seeking to pass a United Nations Security Council resolution calling on the Taliban to “live up to its commitment to ensuring safe passage” for Afghans and others who want to leave Afghanistan, according to three UN diplomats who spoke to reporters on Monday.

It’s not clear what impact a Security Council resolution would have on the Taliban’s actions other than even more forcefully showing the international consensus behind holding the Taliban to its assurances on safe passage. The group has, indeed, sought international recognition as it assumes power.

The Biden administration had already lined up more than 100 countries to sign onto a joint statement that calls on the Taliban to allow Afghans and foreign nationals who have travel authorization from abroad to leave. Notably, Russia and China — both Security Council members who have flirted with recognizing the Taliban — were not among those who have signed on.

The draft of the UN Security Council resolution being discussed Monday stopped short of calling for a “safe zone” and would instead rely on the Taliban itself to allow for safe passage. The resolution also calls for the Taliban to allow “unhindered humanitarian assistance” to continue — from the UN and other organizations — and “underscores, in strong terms, the urgent need to tackle the serious terrorist threat in Afghanistan.”

The three diplomats did not indicate that there would be any sort of enforcement mechanism associated with this resolution.

Aug 30, 12:20 pm
Final hours of US troop withdrawal ‘particularly dangerous time’

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said “the threat remains high, and it remains real” outside Karzai International Airport airport in Kabul as the U.S. military faces its final hours ahead of President Biden’s Aug. 31 deadline for a full military withdrawal. He said threats were “active and in many cases still specific.”

“Non-combat evacuation operations are dangerous, period,” Kirby said. “The end of them, particularly one in that, in an environment that we can’t consider, clearly cannot consider permissive, are particularly dangerous.”

“We are in a particularly dangerous time now,” he added. “Not that it hasn’t always been dangerous, but it is particularly dangerous now.”

Kirby repeatedly declined to provide specific details about the withdrawal’s final hours but did say the military had the ability to evacuate people “until the very end.”

He said “yes” he was sure all troops would be out by the deadline but declined to say exactly what time the deadline would be — whether it was Kabul time, or otherwise.

He also wouldn’t say whether the U.S. planned to leave behind the U.S. military’s anti-projectile C-RAM defense system.

“Commanders are in-flowing and out-flowing those requirements needed to complete the mission,” he said.

Aug 30, 10:31 am
ISIS-K claims rocket strike on Kabul airport: SITE

ISIS-K has claimed responsibility for the attack that targeted Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul with six Katyusha rockets on Sunday, according to a communique issued by ISIS-K on Monday and translated by SITE Intelligence Group.

ISIS-K claimed the rocket landed with “direct hits.”

The message comes just before nightfall in Kabul and one day before Biden’s Aug. 31 military withdrawal deadline from Afghanistan. 

A U.S. official confirmed to ABC News late Sunday that it appeared that as many as five rockets were fired toward the airport in Kabul. There were no signs of casualties at the time, and White House press secretary Jen Psaki issued a statement early Monday stressing that U.S. operations would continue uninterrupted.

ISIS-K also claimed responsibility for last week’s suicide bomber attack outside the airport which left 13 U.S. service members and 169 Afghans dead.

Over the weekend, the U.S. struck two ISIS-K targets in Afghanistan, including a person believed to be planning future attacks. An Afghan health official reported that in one of those strikes, six Afghan civilians were also killed, including four children.

Aug 30, 7:59 am
US, allies evacuate 1,250 people from Kabul in past 24 hours

The United States has evacuated and facilitated the evacuation of some 116,700 people from Kabul since Aug. 14, when the Taliban closed in on Afghanistan’s capital, according to a White House official.

In a 24-hour period from Sunday to Monday, 26 U.S. military flights carried approximately 1,200 evacuees out of Kabul. Another 50 people were evacuated via two coalition aircraft. During the previous 24-hour period, about 2,900 people were evacuated.

Since the end of July, approximately 122,300 people have been relocated from Kabul via U.S. military and coalition flights, the White House official said.

Aug 30, 7:23 am
Americans are not being turned away at Kabul airport, ambassador says

The evacuation effort in Kabul remains a “high-risk operation,” according to Ross Wilson, the acting U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan. But he denied that Americans are being turned away by U.S. forces or embassy personnel at Hamid Karzai International Airport.

“This is a high-risk operation,” Wilson wrote on Twitter early Monday. “Claims that American citizens have been turned away or denied access to HKIA by Embassy staff or US Forces are false.”

Several Republican lawmakers and other critics have accused the Biden administration of refusing to admit U.S. citizens at the airport in Kabul and leaving them behind.

The U.S. Department of State said Sunday that 250 Americans were still seeking to get out of Afghanistan. They have been given specific instructions on when or how to enter Hamid Karzai International Airport, although that journey is still fraught and dangerous. All airport gates are closed and the security threat there remains high.

Aug 30, 1:16 am
US anti-missile system fired to intercept rockets at Kabul airport

There are no signs of casualties Sunday night after five rockets were fired toward Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, a U.S. official told ABC News.

The official said the U.S. military’s anti-projectile C-RAM fired to intercept the incoming rockets, though it is not yet clear how many it took out, if any.

The airport remains operational and flights are continuing, the official added.

Aug 30, 1:16 am
Multiple rockets fired in attack on Kabul airport

As many as five rockets were fired toward Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul Sunday evening, a U.S. official confirms to ABC News.

ABC News is still trying to assess whether there were any casualties inside the airport, whether the airport’s defensive counter rocket, artillery, and mortar system was used, and if there were any U.S. counter strikes against suspected launch positions.

Aug 29, 8:55 pm
Former acting FEMA administrator to lead Afghan refugee resettlement

Bob Fenton, the former acting Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator, is set to lead the efforts to resettle Afghans who are coming to the U.S., the Department of Homeland Security said Sunday.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas chose Fenton after President Joe Biden tasked the agency to lead the federal coordinating efforts.

The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement the resettling group will report directly to Mayorkas and will include a plethora of services from immigration processing to COVID-19 testing.

“The Department of Homeland Security is prepared to serve as the lead federal agency coordinating efforts across the federal government to welcome vulnerable Afghans to our Nation in a way that is consistent with our laws and our values,” Mayorkas said in a statement.

The “Unified Coordination Group” will work with Homeland Security’s partners in state and local governments, non-governmental organizations and the private sector.

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