The Pentagon announced Monday that the very last U.S. military plane had lifted off from the airport in Kabul, ending 20 years of America’s on-the-ground war and occupation of Afghanistan.
“Every single U.S. servicemember is out of Afghanistan,” said Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, in a televised statement.
According to McKenzie, the last aircraft was a C-17 military transport plane with both Maj. Gen. Chris Donahue, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army, and the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, Ross Wilson, on board.
“Tonight’s withdrawal,” McKenzie said, “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.”
Critics of the war noted that McKenzie—though he referenced the 2,461 U.S. soldiers, contractors, and civilians killed during two decades of war in the country—failed to mention in his remarks the human cost to the Afghan civilian population during that time.
“McKenzie mourns loss of U.S. life in last 20 years,” noted CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin in a tweet. “He did not even MENTION all the Afghan lives lost. That says it all.”
According to the Costs of War Project at Brown University, more than 70,000 Afghan civilians have been killed since the U.S. invasion in 2001. On Sunday, 10 civilians—all from one extended family and including children—were reportedly killed by a U.S. airstrike in Kabul.
Democratic lawmakers, including Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), welcomed news of the withdrawal.
“America’s longest war is finally over,” tweeted Jayapal. “As we continue working to help our allies and welcome Afghan refugees with open arms, let’s also commit to stopping endless wars once and for all.”
While President Joe Biden has been under severe pressure to push back the withdrawal deadline, Benjamin and other anti-war voices gave him credit for not delaying the exit.
“For all the ugliness of the exit, and the horrific fact that the Taliban are now in charge,” said Benjamin, “we do have to thank President Biden for ending U.S. involvement in this 20-year fiasco.”