At a Pentagon briefing on Thursday afternoon, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie announced that the U.S. military evacuation mission in Afghanistan has ended. McKenzie added that the 20-year U.S. mission in Afghanistan, which began after the Sept. 11 attacks, is also over.
KENNETH MCKENZIE: I'm here to announce the completion of our withdrawal from Afghanistan and the end of the military 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 airspace above Afghanistan. We will soon release a photo of the last C-17 departing Afghanistan with Major General Chris Donahue and the US Ambassador to Afghanistan Ross Wilson aboard.
While the military evacuation is complete, the diplomatic mission to ensure additional US citizens and eligible Afghans who want to leave continues. And I know that you have heard, and I know that you're going to hear more about that from the State Department shortly. 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, and it was not-- 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 includes 13 US service members who were killed last week by an ISIS-K suicide bomber. We honor their sacrifice today as we remember their heroic accomplishments.