The American flag at the US embassy in Kabul has been taken down, marking a final step in the evacuation of the embassy, according to a source familiar with the situation.
The withdrawal of US embassy personnel from Afghanistan is happening incredibly rapidly today and the process is now expected to conclude by this evening, minus the small number of diplomats who will stay at the Kabul airport for now, the source said.
Right now there are still a few security contractors at the embassy but they will leave soon, explained a second source familiar with the situation.
In recent days the State Department was taking steps that looked like they were heading in the direction of a full withdrawal, but State Department spokesperson Ned Price claimed it was not true when asked. Price said on Thursday that the US drawdown of diplomats was not an evacuation. Now, three days later, the evacuation is on the verge of being complete.
"This is not abandonment. This is not an evacuation. This is not the wholesale withdrawal. What this is (is) a reduction in the size of our civilian footprint," Price said during the department briefing. "The embassy remains open and we plan to continue our diplomatic work in Afghanistan."