“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 September 11, 2001.”
“It was a mission that ended Osama bin Laden, along with many of his al-Qaeda co-conspirators. And it was not a cheap mission. The cost was 2,461 American soldiers and civilians killed and more than 20,000 wounded, ”he continued.
“We didn’t get everyone out that we wanted out,” McKenzie said, noting, however, that all of the US military were evacuated “with 100% certainty.” He estimated that the American citizens who remained in Afghanistan were “in the hundreds”.
McKenzie said that although the military evacuation is complete, “the diplomatic mission to secure additional US citizens and eligible Afghans who wish to leave continues.” Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to speak on the matter in a speech later Monday evening.
McKenzie touted the evacuation as the “largest evacuation of non-combatants” in the history of the US military. More than 123,000 people were evacuated in total, McKenzie said.
No Americans have left on the last five C-17 planes from Kabul, McKenzie said. The army had the capacity to evacuate more people before departure, but “none of them made it to the airport”.
While some U.S. military equipment has been removed from Afghanistan in recent days and weeks, other systems were in service until the last moments of the mission, the commander said. These systems have been “demilitarized,” McKenzie said, comprising as many as 70 MRAPs, 27 Humvees and 73 aircraft.
“We felt it was more important to protect our forces than to bring back these systems,” McKenzie said.
Asked how the Taliban handled relations with the United States as the withdrawal entered its final stages, McKenzie said, “I will tell you that the Taliban have been very pragmatic and very pragmatic as we approached this. withdrawal. However, he insisted that nothing had been handed over to the Taliban directly by US forces.
A green card holder stuck at Kabul airport who spoke to POLITICO before McKenzie’s announcement said the Taliban were celebrating the Americans’ departure by firing their guns in the air.