August 30 Afghanistan-Taliban news

By Melissa Mahtani, Melissa Macaya, Veronica Rocha, Brad Lendon, Jessie Yeung and Sheena McKenzie, CNN

Updated 6:00 a.m. ET, August 31, 2021
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5:15 p.m. ET, August 30, 2021

Top general acknowledges US "did not get everybody out that we wanted to get out"

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

Gen. Kenneth "Frank" McKenzie, the top general of US Central Command, acknowledged that the US military “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 and there still would’ve been people who would’ve been disappointed with that. It’s a tough situation,” he said.

“I want to emphasize again that simply because we have left that doesn’t mean the opportunities for both Americans that are in Afghanistan who want to leave and Afghans who want to leave. They will not be denied that opportunity,” McKenzie added.

5:01 p.m. ET, August 30, 2021

No Americans evacuated on last 5 flights out of Afghanistan, top US general in Middle East says

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

CENTCOM Commander Gen. Kenneth "Frank" McKenzie said Monday that no American citizens made it on the final five evacuation flights leaving Kabul, meaning that Americans who may have wished to leave Afghanistan have been left on the ground. 

“We maintained the ability to bring them in up until immediately before departure, but we were not able to bring any Americans out. That activity ended probably about 12 hours before our exit, although we continued the outreach and would've been prepared to bring them on until the very last minute, but none of them made it to the airport and were able to be accommodated,” McKenzie said.

McKenzie said there were no evacuees left at the airport when the final flights left.

A senior State Department official said earlier Monday the Department believed there were fewer than 250 American citizens who may wish to leave Afghanistan.

“We believe there’s still a small number who remain, and we're trying to determine exactly how many,” the official told reporters Monday. “We are going through manifests of people who have departed, we are calling and texting and WhatsApping and emailing our lists, in an effort to have a more concrete figure regarding how many Americans may remain.”

The official declined to say how the US intends to help Americans and others who wish to leave after the US government is no longer present on the ground, saying that Secretary of State Antony Blinken will discuss it in his remarks on Monday evening.

Blinken on Sunday said that “our commitment to continue to help people leave Afghanistan who want to leave and who are not out by September 1st, that endures. There’s no deadline on that effort. “

5:35 p.m. ET, August 30, 2021

The last US C-17 aircraft lifted off from Kabul just before the US withdrawal deadline, Pentagon says

The top US general for the Middle East, Gen. Kenneth "Frank" McKenzie, said the last US C-17 lifted off from Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport "on August 30th, this afternoon, at 3:29 p.m. East Coast time, and the last manned aircraft is now clearing the airspace above Afghanistan.”

The local Kabul time for the last US aircraft liftoff was 11:59 p.m. Aug. 30, the US deadline for withdrawal was Aug. 31.

5:35 p.m. ET, August 30, 2021

Pentagon announces complete US withdrawal from Afghanistan 

A press briefing is held at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, on August 30.
A press briefing is held at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, on August 30. (Pool)

Gen. Kenneth "Frank" McKenzie, commander of US Central Command, announced the completion of US withdrawal from Afghanistan during a Pentagon news conference on Monday.

"I'm here to announce the completion of our withdrawal from Afghanistan and the end of the 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 space above Afghanistan," McKenzie said.

McKenzie added that the US will continue the diplomatic evacuation mission.

"While the military evacuation is complete, the diplomatic mission to ensure additional US citizens and eligible Afghans, who want to leave, continues," he said.

"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. 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 kills 13 service members who were killed last week by an ISIS-K suicide bomber. We honor their sacrifice today as we remember their heroic accomplishments," he continued.

McKenzie also highlighted the sacrifices of those who served in Afghanistan and his personal connection to the mission.

"No words from me could possibly capture the full measure of sacrifices and accomplishments of those who served, nor the emotions they're feeling at this moment. But I will say that I'm proud that both my son and I have been a part of it," he said.

5:35 p.m. ET, August 30, 2021

The last US military planes have left Afghanistan, marking the end of the United States’ longest war

From CNN's Barbara Starr, Oren Liebermann, Jennifer Hansler and Nicole Gaouette

Planes are seen on the tarmac at the airport in Kabul late on August 30.
Planes are seen on the tarmac at the airport in Kabul late on August 30. (AFP/Getty Images)

The last US military planes left Afghanistan with troops and the remaining core diplomatic staff, Commander of US Central Command, Gen. Kenneth "Frank" McKenzie announced Monday at the Pentagon. 

The US departure marks the end of a fraught, chaotic and bloody exit from the United States’ longest war.

The departure marks the first time in nearly two decades that the US and its allies have not had troops on the ground in Afghanistan after $2 trillion in spending and nearly 2,000 US troops killed in action.

A senior State Department official said Monday that the State Department will not have civilians on the ground once the US military leaves Afghanistan. “We are not going to have civilians on the ground once the military has left,” they said. 

The official said that they expected the US Embassy in Kabul to suspend embassy operations upon the end of the military retrograde, but said “that doesn't mean that we are suspending any commitments to American citizens in Afghanistan, to at risk Afghans, to the Afghan people.”

3:35 p.m. ET, August 30, 2021

UN Security Council approves resolution to create "safe passage" zone from Kabul after US withdrawal

From CNN’s Richard Roth

The UN Security Council has approved a resolution for creating a "safe passage" zone for people seeking to leave Afghanistan from Kabul's airport after the US withdrawal from the country.

The Council is relying on the Taliban to secure a safe passage out for Afghans and foreign nationals seeking to leave the country.

 Here is a breakdown of the vote:

  • 13 votes in favor
  • 2 abstentions, including China
  • None opposed

Following the adoption of the UN resolution, UN Director at Human Rights Watch Louis Charbonneau issued a statement urging the Taliban to uphold human rights and he called on other countries "do their part by speedily processing asylum claims and issuing visas for at-risk Afghans so they can resettle."

“The Taliban should know that the world is watching them closely. They should allow Afghans wishing to leave Afghanistan to do so freely, as they have pledged and the UN Security Council is calling for," the statement said. "The Taliban should also heed the Council’s call that it uphold international human rights law, including the rights of women and girls, children and minorities. They will be judged by their actions, not their words.”

3:39 p.m. ET, August 30, 2021

Biden told commanders on the ground they should "stop at nothing" to go after ISIS members, Psaki says

From CNN's Jason Hoffman

President Joe Biden speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on August 26.
President Joe Biden speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on August 26. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

President Biden has made clear to his military commanders that they should “stop at nothing” to make ISIS pay for the deaths of 13 American service members in Afghanistan last week, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday.

Asked by CNN’s Phil Mattingly if Biden personally gave the green light to a drone strike on an explosives-laden vehicle that US Central Command had said posed an “imminent ISIS-K threat,” to the airport in Kabul, Psaki did not directly answer, but said the commanders have the authorities necessary to carry out such strikes.

“I can tell you that the President has made clear to his commanders that they should stop at nothing to make ISIS pay for the deaths of those American service members at the Kabul airport,” Psaki said at the White House press briefing.

“Obviously, these are ISIS terrorists who killed US service members, and the President is regularly briefed, but he has directed them to go after and to kill these ISIS terrorists who have taken the lives of the men and women serving our country,” she added.

CNN has reported that Sunday’s drone strike killed 10 members of one family, including seven children, according to a relative of those killed who spoke to a local journalist working with CNN. Central Command had said earlier they were assessing the possibilities of civilian casualties.

2:41 p.m. ET, August 30, 2021

Biden expected to address Afghanistan in "the coming days," White House says 

From CNN's Allie Malloy

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that as the US military presence in Afghanistan approaches its final hours, Americans can expect to hear from President Biden in "the coming days."

Psaki would not give specifics when asked whether Biden would speak on Tuesday, the US deadline to evacuate Afghanistan, saying the public should “expect to hear from the President in the coming days.”

Of his time spent with the families of those service members who died in Afghanistan last week, Psaki said Biden was “deeply impacted.”

“He knows first hand that there’s nothing you can say to a family member, to someone who loses a child, that is going to fill the black hole,” she said.

Psaki added that she would not speak to the specifics of those conversations but that Biden was “grateful” to be at Dover Air Force Base for the dignified transfer and to honor the service members sacrifice.

1:43 p.m. ET, August 30, 2021

US Kabul drone strike death toll rises to 10

From CNN's Sandi Sidhu

A funeral is held for the victims who were killed in a US defensive airstrike in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sunday.
A funeral is held for the victims who were killed in a US defensive airstrike in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sunday. CNN

The remains of a two-year-old girl were identified by family members in Kabul today as the 10th person to have died in Sunday's US drone strike, Omid Haqparast, a family member told CNN.

The remains of the girl, named Malika, were recovered on Monday. 

According to the family, Malika had been missing after the airstrike. They went to several hospitals but were unable to find her. When they came back to the airstrike site, near where they live, they began searching again, and somehow found her remains at the scene – a day after the airstrike.

The US carried out a defensive airstrike in Kabul Sunday, targeting a suspected ISIS-K suicide bomber who posed an "imminent" threat to the airport, US Central Command said.

Haqparast told CNN it is unclear whether Malika was inside the vehicle or in the compound that was targeted by the drone on Sunday.

Relatives of the 10 victims spent Monday at a Kabul hospital identifying remains and separating them into coffins.

Two of the coffins were marked with the names Malika and Sumaya. Both girls were two-years-old and the youngest victims of Sunday's airstrike, according to the family.

The funerals took place on Monday for the 10 family members killed on the hill of Khawja Rawash. Family members shouted "Death to America" as they gathered around the coffins.

Some more background: The US strike came after two bombing attacks on Thursday outside Kabul's airport that killed 13 US service members and at least 60 Afghans, according to the Pentagon and Afghanistan's Ministry of Public Health.

The deadly blasts occurred as the United States and other Western countries raced to complete a massive evacuation of their citizens and Afghan allies following the Taliban takeover of the country.

The US military said in their statement on Sunday that there were “Significant secondary explosions from the vehicle indicated the presence of a substantial amount of explosive material.”

Maj. Gen. Bill Taylor, Joint Staff deputy director for regional operations, told a press briefing Monday: "We are aware of reports of civilians casualties. We take these reports extremely seriously"

On Monday, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said the US works hard to avoid civilian casualties.

“We're investigating this. I'm not going to get ahead of it. But if we have significant – verifiable information that we did take innocent life here, then we will be transparent about that, too. Nobody wants to see that happen,” he said. 

“But you know what else we didn't want to see happen. We didn't want to see happen what we believe to be a very real, a very specific and a very imminent threat to the Hamid Karzai International Airport and to our troops operating at the airport as well as civilians around it and in it and that is another thing that we were very concerned about.”