Maj. Gen. Chris Donahue stepped onto 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 late Monday when the last US military planes left Afghanistan. The aircraft carrying Donahue and the final US combatants in Afghanistan lifted off at 11:59 p.m. local time, with just a minute to spare before US President Joe Biden’s August 31 deadline to withdraw from the country.
Here’s what you need to know for Tuesday:
The last Americans: The US Department of Defense tweeted a picture of Donahue, boarding an aircraft to depart Kabul. That night-vision photograph will likely become an indelible image tied to the unceremonious and chaotic end to war that lasted about two decades.
Donahue and the top US diplomat in Kabul, Charge d’Affaires Ross Wilson, were the last two US officials to step off of Afghanistan soil and onto a US military aircraft out of Afghanistan.
The Taliban celebrates: Videos from Kabul airport following the US departure showed Taliban fighters inspecting military hardware and celebrating. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid on Tuesday congratulated the people of Afghanistan, saying “this victory belongs to us all.”
The White House’s next steps: Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday the US is starting “a new chapter” in Afghanistan. He outlined the US’ plans for the “days and weeks ahead” that includes suspending their diplomatic presence in Kabul and creating a new team.
More details are expected to be forthcoming. President Biden will address the American people on the end of the war in Afghanistan from the White House on Tuesday afternoon.
US citizens left behind: Blinken said Monday that the State Department believes there is “a small number of Americans, under 200 and likely closer to 100, who remain in Afghanistan and want to leave.”
Blinken said the US and its allies, including Qatar and Turkey, are discussing ways to reopen the Kabul airport as quickly as possible to facilitate safe travel out of Afghanistan for Americans, US legal permanent residents and Afghans who worked with the United States who want to leave the country.
Afghanistan’s future: Many in Afghanistan remain worried that, despite the Taliban’s attempt to portray itself as a more moderate force, the militant group will govern by the draconian, fundamentalist religious law that marked its time in power in the late 1990s.
“They are terrified about being left behind. They are more terrified about being forgotten. Biden may say the war is over. It’s not over for them,” said Paul Rieckhoff, founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.