December 8, 2021

Afghanistan live updates: With US military gone, up to 200 Americans remain

KABUL, Afghanistan — As the ultimate 5 U.S. military transport plane lifted off out of Afghanistan, they left behind up to 200 Americans and hundreds of determined Afghans who could not get out and now should depend on the Taliban to enable their departure.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken mentioned the U.S. will proceed to attempt to get Americans and Afghans overseas, and can work with Afghanistan’s neighbors to safe their departure both over land or by constitution flight as soon as the Kabul airport reopens.

“We have no illusion that any of this will be easy, or rapid,” mentioned Blinken, including that the whole variety of Americans who’re in Afghanistan and nonetheless need to go away could also be nearer to 100.

Talking shortly after the Pentagon introduced the completion of the U.S. military pullout Monday, Blinken mentioned the U.S. Embassy in Kabul will remain shuttered and vacant for the foreseeable future. American diplomats, he mentioned, can be primarily based in Doha, Qatar.

“We will continue our relentless efforts to help Americans, foreign nationals and Afghans leave Afghanistan if they choose,” Blinken mentioned in an handle from the State Division. “Our commitment to them holds no deadline.”

Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, instructed reporters the U.S. military was ready to get as many as 1,500 Afghans out within the closing hours of the American evacuation mission. However now will probably be up to the State Division working with the Taliban to get any extra folks out.

McKenzie mentioned there have been no residents left stranded on the airport and none have been on the ultimate few military flights out. He mentioned the U.S. military maintained the flexibility to get Americans out proper up till simply earlier than the tip, however “none of them made it to the airport.”

“There’s a lot of heartbreak associated with this departure,” mentioned McKenzie. “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 that we wanted to get out.”

McKenzie and different officers painted a vivid image of the ultimate hours U.S. troops have been on the bottom, and the preparations they took to be certain that the Taliban and Islamic State group militants didn’t get functioning U.S. military weapons methods and different tools.

The fear risk stays a significant downside in Afghanistan, with no less than 2,000 “hard core” members of the Islamic State group who remain within the nation, together with many launched from prisons because the Taliban swept to management.

Underscoring the continuing safety threats, the weapon methods used simply hours earlier to counter IS rockets launched towards the airport have been stored operational till “the very last minute” as the ultimate U.S. military plane flew out, officers mentioned. One of many final issues U.S. troops did was to make the so-called C-RAMS (Counter Rocket, Artillery and Mortar System) inoperable.

McKenzie mentioned they “demilitarized” the system so it could possibly by no means be used once more. Officers mentioned troops didn’t blow up tools so as to guarantee they left the airport workable for future flights, as soon as these start once more. As well as, McKenzie mentioned the U.S. additionally disabled 27 Humvees and 73 plane to allow them to by no means be used once more.

All through the day, as the ultimate C-17 transport planes ready to take off, McKenzie mentioned the U.S. stored “overwhelming U.S. airpower overhead” to take care of potential IS threats.

Again on the Pentagon, Protection Secretary Lloyd Austin and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Workers, watched the ultimate 90 minutes of the military departure in actual time from an operations heart within the basement.

In accordance to a U.S. official, they sat in hushed silence as they watched troops make last-minute runway checks, make the important thing protection methods inoperable and climb aboard the C-17s. The official mentioned you can hear a pin drop because the final plane lifted off, and leaders across the room breathed sighs of reduction. Later, Austin phoned Maj. Gen. Christopher Donahue, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, who was coordinating the evacuation. Donahue and performing U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan Ross Wilson have been the final to board the ultimate airplane that left Kabul.

Officers spoke on situation of anonymity to present particulars of military operations.

“Simply because we have left, that doesn’t mean the opportunities for both Americans that are in Afghanistan that want to leave and Afghans who want to leave, they will not be denied that opportunity,” mentioned McKenzie.

The military left some tools for the Taliban so as to run the airport, together with two firetrucks, some front-end loaders and plane staircases.

Blinken mentioned the U.S. will work with Turkey and Qatar to assist them get the Kabul airport up and working once more.

“This would enable a small number of daily charter flights, which is a key for anyone who wants to depart from Afghanistan moving forward,” he mentioned.