President Joe Biden will address the nation later today – nearly 24 hours after the final US troops left Afghanistan in a frantic exit that cost the lives of 13 U.S. service members and more than 180 Afghans.
Soon after the final US transport planes left Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport – marking the end of America’s longest war – Biden only issued a statement thanking the US military for their service.
Biden, who has drawn fierce criticism for the botched withdrawal, is set to address the situation at 1:30 pm today.
“The past 17 days have seen our troops execute the largest airlift in US history, evacuating over 120,000 US citizens, citizens of our allies, and Afghan allies of the United States,” Biden said in his Monday statement.
“Now, our 20-year military presence in Afghanistan has ended.”
The president added that he “will address the American people on my decision not to extend our presence in Afghanistan beyond Aug. 31” in his remarks later today.
Moments after the final five US military transport planes lifted out of Kabul late Monday, the Taliban celebrated with a hail of gunfire and fireworks as they stormed the airport.
Footage released by the Taliban showed heavily armed fighters examining multiple Chinook helicopters, vehicles and weapons left behind by US troops at the airport.
Hamid Karzai had become a US-controlled island as the chaotic evacuations ramped up in the last two weeks after the Taliban seized control of the war-torn country on Aug. 15.
13 US service members and more than 170 Afghans were killed at an airport gate last Thursday when an ISIS suicide bomber set off an explosion. Two weeks earlier, several Afghans were killed during tarmac stampedes as thousands desperately tried to board US evacuation flights.
More than 79,000 civilians were flown out of the airport on US military aircraft the last two weeks — including 6,000 Americans and 73,500 Afghans and third-country citizens.
The number of evacuated civilians grew to more than 123,000 when accounting for those flown out by members of the US-led coalition.
Up to 200 American citizens and thousands more Afghan allies have been left behind.
Republicans have accused Biden of abandoning US citizens in the Taliban-controlled country after the president vowed last week not to leave any American behind.
Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of US military’s Central Command, said Monday that he believes those still in Afghanistan will be able to leave.
“We did not get out everybody we had wanted to get out,” McKenzie said. “There are Americans for a variety of reasons who want to stay for a while.”