Nineteen years, 10 months, and 23 days after the U.S. mission in Afghanistan began, Army Major General Chris Donahue, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, was the last American soldier to leave Afghan soil shortly before midnight in Kabul on Monday.
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“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,” said Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command.
A mission that was not cheap.
“The cost was 2,461 U.S. service members and civilians killed and more than 20,000 who were injured,” McKenzie said.
By early Tuesday morning, the Taliban’s Islamic fighters, along with their top leaders, were strolling the tarmac of Kabul’s airport in full control and declaring that the myth of American invincibility had been busted in Afghanistan.
“We have achieved our independence and we were able to force the Americans to leave after 20 years of jihad and sacrifice,” declared Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman.
Over 18 days, the U.S. military airlifted about 123,000 civilians from the airport, including 6,000 Americans in the largest non-combatant evacuation in U.S. military history.
Still, U.S. citizens who wanted to get out, are still trapped inside the country, along with thousands of Afghan partners.
“We believe there are still a small number of Americans under 200 and likely closer to 100 who remain in Afghanistan and want to leave,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken in an address Monday.
But just two weeks ago, in an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, President Biden promised to stay until every American, including Afghan allies and their families, were out.
“If there are Americans citizens left, we are going to stay until we get them all out,” Biden said.
Now that U.S. forces have withdrawn, the question is will Afghanistan become a terrorist safe haven again?
The Taliban says it will not allow the country to be a launching pad for terror attacks, but many experts believe their takeover is a boost for terror groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS.
“We are unfortunately going to see a massive boost in terror recruitment and radicalization based on the belief that jihadists in Afghanistan first defeated the Soviet Union and now they’ve defeated the United States,” warned Bradley Bowman, senior director of the Center on Military and Political Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
And the ramifications are already reverberating, especially for Afghanistan’s religious minority groups.
At a safe house in Kabul, Jaiuddin, not his real name, has been hiding along with 12 other Afghans, since the Taliban seized control of the city nearly three weeks ago.
“One of us is always awake during the night, always walking around and praying, so if the Taliban should come and knock on our door, we should alert everyone,” Jaiuddine told CBN News.
In an exclusive interview with CBN News, Jaiuddin and the others, who are part of Afghanistan’s very small Christian community, told us they have no passports and no U.S. government-issued exit papers. And right now, their hopes of escape are diminishing.
“We had many plans for preaching the gospel with other brothers and sisters. But then the Taliban took control so quickly. It happened so fast,” Sarah, an Afghan Christian, told CBN News.
And now they’ve been marked by the Taliban.
“Every day I receive a phone call, from a private number, and the person warns me that if he sees me again, he’ll behead me,” Jaiuddin claimed.
While Jaiuddin says he’s not afraid of dying, he is asking the world to pray for his country.
“We are praying for each other that the Lord would put his angels around our house for our protection and safety. We are also praying for peace for everyone in our country,” he said.