U.S. leaves Afghanistan after 20-year war

The United States withdrew its last forces from Afghanistan Monday, the Pentagon said, after a chaotic evacuation of thousands of Americans and Afghan allies, ending U.S. involvement there after 20 years of conflict.

The operation came to an end before the Tuesday deadline set by President Joe Biden, who has drawn heavy criticism from both Democrats and Republicans for his handling of Afghanistan since the Taliban made rapid advances and took over Kabul earlier this month.

General Frank McKenzie, commander of the U.S. Central Command, said at a Pentagon briefing that the chief U.S. diplomat in Afghanistan, Ross Wilson, was on the last flight out.

"Every single U.S. service member is now out of Afghanistan. I can say that with 100% certainty,” McKenzie said.

Failing to anticipate the Taliban would so quickly conquer the country, Washington and its NATO allies were forced into a hasty exit. They leave behind thousands of Afghans who helped Western countries and might have qualified for evacuation.

General McKenzie said the final flights did not include some dozens of Americans who could not get to the airport.

"There's a lot of heartbreak associated with this departure. We did not get everybody out that we wanted to get out. But I think if we'd stayed another 10 days, we wouldn't have gotten everybody out," McKenzie told reporters.

More than 122,000 people have been airlifted out of Kabul since Aug. 14, the day before the Taliban regained control of the country two decades after being removed from power by the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

Amid evacuations, a suicide bomb attack last week claimed by Islamic State killed 13 U.S. service members and scores of Afghans waiting by the airport gates.

Monday's final departure took place after U.S. anti-missile defenses intercepted rockets fired at Kabul's airport.

Tuesday's deadline for troops to leave was set by Biden, fulfilling an agreement reached with the Taliban by his predecessor, Donald Trump to end the United States' longest war.

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