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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7:24 p.m. ET, August 30, 2021

Some US military equipment removed from Afghanistan and other items disabled, top general says

From CNN's Oren Liebermann and Ellie Kaufman

Some of the US military equipment used in Afghanistan was removed from the country and other items were disabled, Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of US Central Command, told reporters during a briefing on Monday.

The US military kept some equipment operating until nearly the end of the withdrawal to protect US forces and people at Kabul international airport, McKenzie said. That equipment was “demilitarized,” McKenzie said, meaning it was disabled in a way that makes it impossible to use. 

As an example, McKenzie said he advanced C-RAM defensive system, which stands for Counter-Rocket, Artillery, and Mortar, was left at Hamid Karzai International Airport. The automated C-RAM system, which detects incoming fire and destroys it with a machine gun, was activated just one day before the withdrawal was complete, when militants fired approximately five rockets at the airport. Two rockets that would have landed on the field were intercepted by C-RAM. 

“It’s a complex procedure, complex and time intensive procedure to break down those systems so we de-militarized those systems so that they’ll never be used again, and we just felt it more important to protect our forces than to bring those systems back,” McKenzie said. 

The US military also left behind about 70 MRAPS or Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles, 27 Humvees, which are tactical vehicles, and 73 aircrafts at the Kabul airport. This equipment was disabled, McKenzie said. A “total of 73 aircraft, those aircraft will never fly again when we left, they’ll never be operated by anyone,” McKenzie said.

6:31 p.m. ET, August 30, 2021

Biden thanks US forces: "Now, our 20-year military presence in Afghanistan has ended"

From CNN's Jason Hoffman

US Army soldiers assigned to the 10th Mountain Division stand security at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 16.
US Army soldiers assigned to the 10th Mountain Division stand security at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 16. (Sgt. Isaiah Campbell/U.S. Marine Corps via AP)

President Biden thanked the final US forces serving in Afghanistan for executing the “dangerous retrograde from Afghanistan as scheduled,” with no further loss of American lives, in a statement released Monday evening, making the end of the United States’ longest war.

“The past 17 days have seen our troops execute the largest airlift in US history, evacuating over 120,000 US citizens, citizens of our allies, and Afghan allies of the United States. They have done it with unmatched courage, professionalism, and resolve,” the President wrote in the statement released Monday night. 

“Now, our 20-year military presence in Afghanistan has ended.”

Biden said he will address the nation on Tuesday on his decision to not extend America’s presence in Afghanistan past Aug. 31, but said in his statement that “it was the unanimous recommendation of the Joint Chiefs and of all of our commanders on the ground to end our airlift mission as planned.”

“Their view was that ending our military mission was the best way to protect the lives of our troops, and secure the prospects of civilian departures for those who want to leave Afghanistan in the weeks and months ahead,” he wrote.

The President also made clear he intends to hold the Taliban accountable to their commitment to allow those seeking to leave the country will be able to do so safely.

“The Taliban has made commitments on safe passage and the world will hold them to their commitments. It will include ongoing diplomacy in Afghanistan and coordination with partners in the region to reopen the airport allowing for continued departure for those who want to leave and delivery of humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan,” the President wrote.

Earlier Monday, CENTCOM Commander Gen. Kenneth McKenzie acknowledged that the US military “did not get everybody out that we wanted to get out.”

Biden ended his statement “with a moment of gratitude for the sacrifice of the 13 service members in Afghanistan who gave their lives last week to save tens of thousands,” naming each of the American service members killed.

5:42 p.m. ET, August 30, 2021

Top diplomat and military commander were the last two American officials to depart Afghanistan

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman

The last two US officials to step off of Afghanistan soil and onto a US military aircraft out of Afghanistan were Gen. Chris Donahue, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, and the top US diplomat in Kabul, Charge d’Affaires Ross Wilson, Gen. Kenneth "Frank" McKenzie, the top general of US Central Command, told reporters during a briefing on Monday.

“On the last airplane out was Gen. Chris Donahue, commander of the 82nd airborne division and my grand force commander there, and he was accompanied by our charge Ambassador Ross Wilson, so they came out together,” McKenzie said.

“The state and defense team came out on the last aircraft and were in fact the last people to step on the ground, step on the airplane,” he added.

5:24 p.m. ET, August 30, 2021

FAA prohibits US flights over most of Afghanistan

From CNN's Pete Muntean and Brian Rokus

The Federal Aviation Administration is prohibiting US civil operators, pilots and US-registered civil aircraft from operating at any altitude over much of Afghanistan, according to a statement sent Monday. 

“US civil operators may continue to use one high-altitude jet route near the far eastern border for overflights. Any U.S. civil aircraft operator that wants to fly into/out of or over Afghanistan must receive prior authorization from the FAA,” the statement said.

Shortly before, the FAA issued a notice to airmen, saying that effective immediately, Hamid Karzai International Airport is “uncontrolled.” 

“No air traffic control or airport services are available. Aircraft operating into, out of, or through Kabul (flight information region) and landing OAKB should use extreme cautions,” the notice said, using the international abbreviation for the airport.

Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of US Central Command, announced Monday that the last US military planes have left Afghanistan. The US departure marks the end of a fraught, chaotic and bloody exit from the United States' longest war.

 

5:28 p.m. ET, August 30, 2021

Taliban "very pragmatic" and "businesslike" in final moments of US presence, top general says

From CNN's Michael Conte and Ellie Kaufman 

Gen. Frank McKenzie, the top general of US Central Command, said the Taliban have been “very pragmatic and very businesslike” during the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. 

McKenzie said that one of the last things Maj. Gen. Chris Donahue did before leaving Afghanistan was “talk to the Taliban commander.”

The US did coordinate with the Taliban commander on when the US was leaving, “but there was no discussion of turning anything over of that at all,” McKenzie said.

“We did not turn it over to the Taliban. General Donahue, one of the last things he did before leaving was talk to the Taliban commander that he had been coordinating with, as soon as, about the time we were going to leave just to let them know that we were leaving. But there was no discussion of turning anything over of that at all,” McKenzie said.

 

5:14 p.m. ET, August 30, 2021

Celebratory gunfire heard in Kabul after departure of last US aircraft

From CNN's Nathan Hodge

Parts of Kabul erupted in celebratory gunfire after the last US C-17 aircraft lifted off from Hamid Karzai International Airport right before midnight local time on Monday. 

A local reporter working with CNN heard heavy gunfire and saw tracer fire arcing across the sky shortly after the last aircraft departed.  

Video viewed by CNN showed Taliban fighters on a street in the capital firing automatic weapons into the air. 

5:06 p.m. ET, August 30, 2021

US military conducted "largest non-combatant evacuation" in its history, Pentagon says

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman

An air crew prepares to load evacuees aboard an aircraft in support of the Afghanistan evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport on August 21 in Kabul, Afghanistan. 
An air crew prepares to load evacuees aboard an aircraft in support of the Afghanistan evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport on August 21 in Kabul, Afghanistan.  (Taylor Crul/U.S. Air Force/Getty Images)

The US military conducted the “largest non-combatant evacuation” in the military’s history over the past 18-day period starting on Aug.14, Gen. Frank McKenzie, the top general of US Central Command said on Monday.

In the 18 days, the US military evacuated 79,000 civilians from Hamid Karzai International Airport, he added.

Out of the 79,000 evacuated, that included 6,000 Americans and more than 73,000 third-country and Afghan civilians, McKenzie said.

"This last category includes Special Immigrant Visas, consular staff, at-risk Afghans and their families," he said.

“In total, US and coalition aircraft combined to evacuate more than 123,000 civilians which were all enabled by US military service members who were securing and operating the airfield,” Mckenzie explained. 

During the evacuation mission, the US military evacuated “more than 7,500 civilians” on average over the 18 days, including evacuating 19,000 on a single day during the mission, McKenzie said. 

"The numbers I provided represent an accomplishment, but they do not do justice to the determination, the grit, the flexibility, and the professionalism of the men and women of the US military and our coalition partners who were able to rapidly combine efforts and evacuate so many under such difficult conditions," he said.

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. “