New footage shows the moment a decorated American soldier boarded a military cargo plane just before midnight Tuesday in Afghanistan — becoming the last US service member to leave the country.
The departure of Maj. Gen. Donahue, commander of the US. Army 82nd Airborne Division who was coordinating the evacuation from Afghanistan, marked an end to the longest US war that lasted nearly 20 years.
The milestone moment also “closes the U.S. mission to evacuate American citizens, Afghan Special Immigrant Visa applicants, and vulnerable Afghans,” US Central Command wrote in a statement accompanying the release of the picture.
After the final flight, Donahue received a phone call from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who had watched the final 90 minutes of the military evacuation from a basement operations center in the Pentagon, a US official told The Associated Press.
Donahue, a graduate of the US military academy at West Point, has had an illustrious Army career that began in 1992.
The two-star general has been deployed at least 17 times in support of operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and other locations, according to a 2020 profile of him on the Army’s official website.
The last C-17 plane left Hamid Karzai International Airport at 11:59 p.m. Kabul time just ahead of the Aug. 31 deadline to withdraw troops from the country.
More than 79,000 civilians had been flown out of the Kabul airport on US military aircraft since Aug. 14 — including 6,000 Americans and 73,500 Afghans and third-country citizens, according to Gen. Frank McKenzie Jr., the head of US Central Command.
The number of evacuated civilians grew to more than 123,000 when accounting for those flown out by members of the US-led coalition. But up to 200 American citizens and thousands more Afghan allies have been left behind.
“We did not get out everybody we had wanted to get out,” McKenzie said Monday. “There are Americans for a variety of reasons who want to stay for a while.”
McKenzie added that diplomatic measures would now need to be employed to get out the rest of Americans left in the country.