Top diplomat and military commander were the last two American officials to depart Afghanistan
From CNN's Ellie Kaufman
The last two US officials to step off of Afghanistan soil and onto a US military aircraft out of Afghanistan were Gen. Chris Donahue, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, and the top US diplomat in Kabul, Charge d’Affaires Ross Wilson, Gen. Kenneth "Frank" McKenzie, the top general of US Central Command, told reporters during a briefing on Monday.
“On the last airplane out was Gen. Chris Donahue, commander of the 82nd airborne division and my grand force commander there, and he was accompanied by our charge Ambassador Ross Wilson, so they came out together,” McKenzie said.
“The state and defense team came out on the last aircraft and were in fact the last people to step on the ground, step on the airplane,” he added.
5:24 p.m. ET, August 30, 2021
FAA prohibits US flights over most of Afghanistan
From CNN's Pete Muntean and Brian Rokus
The Federal Aviation Administration is prohibiting US civil operators, pilots and US-registered civil aircraft from operating at any altitude over much of Afghanistan, according to a statement sent Monday.
“US civil operators may continue to use one high-altitude jet route near the far eastern border for overflights. Any U.S. civil aircraft operator that wants to fly into/out of or over Afghanistan must receive prior authorization from the FAA,” the statement said.
Shortly before, the FAA issued a notice to airmen, saying that effective immediately, Hamid Karzai International Airport is “uncontrolled.”
“No air traffic control or airport services are available. Aircraft operating into, out of, or through Kabul (flight information region) and landing OAKB should use extreme cautions,” the notice said, using the international abbreviation for the airport.
Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of US Central Command, announced Monday that the last US military planes have left Afghanistan. The US departure marks the end of a fraught, chaotic and bloody exit from the United States' longest war.
5:28 p.m. ET, August 30, 2021
Taliban "very pragmatic" and "businesslike" in final moments of US presence, top general says
From CNN's Michael Conte and Ellie Kaufman
Gen. Frank McKenzie, the top general of US Central Command, said the Taliban have been “very pragmatic and very businesslike” during the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
McKenzie said that one of the last things Maj. Gen. Chris Donahue did before leaving Afghanistan was “talk to the Taliban commander.”
The US did coordinate with the Taliban commander on when the US was leaving, “but there was no discussion of turning anything over of that at all,” McKenzie said.
“We did not turn it over to the Taliban. General Donahue, one of the last things he did before leaving was talk to the Taliban commander that he had been coordinating with, as soon as, about the time we were going to leave just to let them know that we were leaving. But there was no discussion of turning anything over of that at all,” McKenzie said.
5:14 p.m. ET, August 30, 2021
Celebratory gunfire heard in Kabul after departure of last US aircraft
From CNN's Nathan Hodge
Parts of Kabul erupted in celebratory gunfire after the last US C-17 aircraft lifted off from Hamid Karzai International Airport right before midnight local time on Monday.
A local reporter working with CNN heard heavy gunfire and saw tracer fire arcing across the sky shortly after the last aircraft departed.
Video viewed by CNN showed Taliban fighters on a street in the capital firing automatic weapons into the air.
5:06 p.m. ET, August 30, 2021
US military conducted "largest non-combatant evacuation" in its history, Pentagon says
From CNN's Ellie Kaufman
The US military conducted the “largest non-combatant evacuation” in the military’s history over the past 18-day period starting on Aug.14, Gen. Frank McKenzie, the top general of US Central Command said on Monday.
In the 18 days, the US military evacuated 79,000 civilians from Hamid Karzai International Airport, he added.
Out of the 79,000 evacuated, that included 6,000 Americans and more than 73,000 third-country and Afghan civilians, McKenzie said.
"This last category includes Special Immigrant Visas, consular staff, at-risk Afghans and their families," he said.
“In total, US and coalition aircraft combined to evacuate more than 123,000 civilians which were all enabled by US military service members who were securing and operating the airfield,” Mckenzie explained.
During the evacuation mission, the US military evacuated “more than 7,500 civilians” on average over the 18 days, including evacuating 19,000 on a single day during the mission, McKenzie said.
"The numbers I provided represent an accomplishment, but they do not do justice to the determination, the grit, the flexibility, and the professionalism of the men and women of the US military and our coalition partners who were able to rapidly combine efforts and evacuate so many under such difficult conditions," he said.
5:15 p.m. ET, August 30, 2021
Top general acknowledges US "did not get everybody out that we wanted to get out"
From CNN's Jennifer Hansler
Gen. Kenneth "Frank" McKenzie, the top general of US Central Command, acknowledged that the US military “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 that we wanted to get out and there still would’ve been people who would’ve been disappointed with that. It’s a tough situation,” he said.
“I want to emphasize again that simply because we have left that doesn’t mean the opportunities for both Americans that are in Afghanistan who want to leave and Afghans who want to leave. They will not be denied that opportunity,” McKenzie added.
5:01 p.m. ET, August 30, 2021
No Americans evacuated on last 5 flights out of Afghanistan, top US general in Middle East says
From CNN's Jennifer Hansler
CENTCOM Commander Gen. Kenneth "Frank" McKenzie said Monday that no American citizens made it on the final five evacuation flights leaving Kabul, meaning that Americans who may have wished to leave Afghanistan have been left on the ground.
“We maintained the ability to bring them in up until immediately before departure, but we were not able to bring any Americans out. That activity ended probably about 12 hours before our exit, although we continued the outreach and would've been prepared to bring them on until the very last minute, but none of them made it to the airport and were able to be accommodated,” McKenzie said.
McKenzie said there were no evacuees left at the airport when the final flights left.
A senior State Department official said earlier Monday the Department believed there were fewer than 250 American citizens who may wish to leave Afghanistan.
“We believe there’s still a small number who remain, and we're trying to determine exactly how many,” the official told reporters Monday. “We are going through manifests of people who have departed, we are calling and texting and WhatsApping and emailing our lists, in an effort to have a more concrete figure regarding how many Americans may remain.”
The official declined to say how the US intends to help Americans and others who wish to leave after the US government is no longer present on the ground, saying that Secretary of State Antony Blinken will discuss it in his remarks on Monday evening.
Blinken on Sunday said that “our commitment to continue to help people leave Afghanistan who want to leave and who are not out by September 1st, that endures. There’s no deadline on that effort. “
5:35 p.m. ET, August 30, 2021
The last US C-17 aircraft lifted off from Kabul just before the US withdrawal deadline, Pentagon says
The top US general for the Middle East, Gen. Kenneth "Frank" McKenzie, said the last US C-17 lifted off from Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport "on August 30th, this afternoon, at 3:29 p.m. East Coast time, and the last manned aircraft is now clearing the airspace above Afghanistan.”
The local Kabul time for the last US aircraft liftoff was 11:59 p.m. Aug. 30, the US deadline for withdrawal was Aug. 31.
5:35 p.m. ET, August 30, 2021
Pentagon announces complete US withdrawal from Afghanistan
Gen. Kenneth "Frank" McKenzie, commander of US Central Command, announced the completion of US withdrawal from Afghanistan during a Pentagon news conference on Monday.
"I'm here to announce the completion of our withdrawal from Afghanistan and the end of the mission to evacuate American citizens, third country nationals and vulnerable Afghans. The last C-17 lifted off from Hamid Karzai International Airport on August 30, this afternoon. at 3:29 pm East coast time, and the last manned aircraft is now clearing the space above Afghanistan," McKenzie said.
McKenzie added that the US will continue the diplomatic evacuation mission.
"While the military evacuation is complete, the diplomatic mission to ensure additional US citizens and eligible Afghans, who want to leave, continues," he said.
"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's a mission that brought Osama bin Laden to a just end, along with many of his al Qaeda co-conspirators. It was not a cheap mission. The cost was 2,461 US Service members and civilians killed and more than 20,000 who were injured. Sadly, that kills 13 service members who were killed last week by an ISIS-K suicide bomber. We honor their sacrifice today as we remember their heroic accomplishments," he continued.
McKenzie also highlighted the sacrifices of those who served in Afghanistan and his personal connection to the mission.
"No words from me could possibly capture the full measure of sacrifices and accomplishments of those who served, nor the emotions they're feeling at this moment. But I will say that I'm proud that both my son and I have been a part of it," he said.