By John Ikani
Pentagon officials have announced that the last U.S. military plane has left Afghanistan, marking the end of America’s longest war likely to be remembered for colossal failures, unfulfilled promises and a frantic final exit that cost the lives of more than 180 Afghans and 13 U.S. service members, some barely older than the war.
The closing hours of the evacuation were marked by extraordinary drama. American troops faced the daunting task of getting final evacuees onto planes, while also getting themselves and some of their equipment out, even as they monitored repeated threats – and at least two actual attacks – by the Islamic State group’s Afghanistan affiliate. A suicide bombing on Aug. 26 killed 13 American service members and some 169 Afghans.
Confirming the development, Gen. Frank McKenzie, Commander of U.S. Central Command, said more than 123,000 civilians were flown out by the U.S. and its partners, adding that the evacuation was “a monumental accomplishment.”
Mckenzie however noted that a number of American citizens, likely numbering in “the very low hundreds,” were left behind, and that he believes they will still be able to leave the country.
According to him, in the final hours of America’s military presence on the ground, the Taliban were “very pragmatic and very businesses-like.”
He said they established a “firm perimeter outside the airfield,” and were helpful to U.S. forces in concluding military operations on the ground.
The final pullout fulfilled Biden’s pledge to end what he called a “forever war” that began in response to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington and rural Pennsylvania. His decision, announced in April, reflected a national weariness of the Afghanistan conflict. Now he faces condemnation at home and abroad, not so much for ending the war as for his handling of a final evacuation that unfolded in chaos and raised doubts about U.S. credibility.
In Biden’s view, the war could have ended 10 years ago with the U.S. killing of Osama bin Laden, whose al-Qaida extremist network planned and executed the 9/11 plot from an Afghanistan sanctuary. Al-Qaida has been vastly diminished, preventing it thus far from again attacking the United States.