Major General Chris Donahue boarded a C-17 in Kabul, Afghanistan late Monday night and, for the first time in nearly 20 years, there were no US troops on Afghan soil.
America’s longest war effectively ended Monday night when the last US military planes left Afghanistan. The plane carrying Donahue and the last American fighters in Afghanistan took off at 11:59 p.m. local time, with just a minute to lose before the August 31 deadline set by US President Joe Biden to withdraw from the country.
Here’s what you need to know for Tuesday:
The last Americans: The US Department of Defense tweeted a photo of Donahue boarding a plane to leave Kabul. This night vision photograph will likely become an indelible image linked to the informal and chaotic end of the war that lasted for roughly two decades.
Donahue and the top US diplomat in Kabul, Chargé d’Affaires Ross Wilson, were the last two US officials to leave Afghan soil and board a US military plane from Afghanistan.
The Taliban Celebrate: Videos from Kabul airport after the US left showed Taliban fighters inspecting military equipment and celebrating. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid congratulated the Afghan people on Tuesday, saying “this victory belongs to all of us.”
The White House’s next steps: Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday that the United States was starting “a new chapter” in Afghanistan. He described the US plans for the “days and weeks to come,” including the suspension of its diplomatic presence in Kabul and the creation of a new team.
More details are awaited. President Biden will address the American people on ending the war in Afghanistan from the White House on Tuesday afternoon.
U.S. Citizens Left Behind: Blinken said Monday that the State Department estimated there were “a small number of Americans, less than 200 and probably closer to 100, who remain in Afghanistan and want to leave.”
Blinken said the United States and its allies, including Qatar and Turkey, are discussing ways to reopen Kabul airport as quickly as possible in order to facilitate safe travel out of Afghanistan for Americans, legal permanent residents of the United States and Afghans who have worked with the United States who wish to leave the country.
The future of Afghanistan: Many in Afghanistan remain concerned that, despite the Taliban’s attempt to present itself as a more moderate force, the militant group will rule under the draconian and fundamentalist religious law that marked its rise to power in the late 1990s.
“They are terrified of being left behind. They are even more terrified of being forgotten. Biden can say the war is over. It is not over for them,” said Paul Rieckhoff, founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.