U.S. completes withdrawal from Afghanistan, ends war after 20 years

Last U.S. troop finally out of Afghanistan

Published August 30, 2021 6:13PM (EDT)

Joe Biden | American soldiers in Afghanistan (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Joe Biden | American soldiers in Afghanistan (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

After two decades of war, the last U.S. military plane left Afghanistan just ahead of an August 31 deadline. 

President Joe Biden announced that the Joint Chiefs of Staff unanimously agreed with the withdrawal, which saw an unprecedented evacuation of more than 122,000 people airlifted from Hamid Karzai International Airport since July, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters, including 5,400 Americans. Fewer than 250 American citizens currently remain in Afghanistan, a senior State Department official said on Monday. 

The U.S. spent $2 trillion and lost nearly 2,000 troops in 20 years of war. 13 servicemembers were killed in a car bombing last week. A firefight between enemy combatants and U.S. marines ensued before detonation, but Army Maj. Gen. William "Hank" Taylor failed to specify how many shooters were involved or whether the suicide bomber was also firing before the bombing during a Pentagon press briefing today. 

Despite rumors that the U.S would be halting evacuations, the U.S. managed to evacuate around 8,500 people — including 350 American's and several injured soldiers who were airlifted to an airbase in Germany - in the 24 hours after the bombing.

In response to the attack, President Joe Biden vowed to "hunt down" those responsible, adding that "if (the military) needs additional forces, I will grant it." The Pentagon announced days later that it followed through on the president's vow and killed two "high-profile" ISIS-K targets — along with several Afghan civilians, including children. 

Biden's counterattack did not involve sending additional troops back for an endless war in Afghanistan. 

Marine Corps. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr. explained to reporters that the deadline for U.S troops to leave was met with cooperation from the Taliban. The Pentagon said the sharing of intelligence is to help expedite the evacuations and denied any evidence of collaboration between the two terrorist groups  —  but that a full investigation into the attack is underway. Although communication between the U.S. military and the Taliban is improving, according to Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby "Whatever the future of Afghanistan is from a governance perspective, we're going to stay engaged with the international community to make sure that Afghanistan's leaders are held to proper account for the way they are governing." 

By Michael Karlis

Michael Karlis was an Editorial Intern at Salon.com — reporting on Politics and Health — and a recent graduate of American University in Washington, D.C.

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