The American flag at the US embassy in Kabul has been taken down, indicating a final step in the evacuation of the diplomatic compound.
Days earlier, President Biden’s administration sent another 1,000 troops into Afghanistan to manage the sudden departure of embassy personnel and other staff than US officials initially projected.
The US scrambled to evacuate staff and top officials from its embassy in Afghanistan on Sunday as Taliban fighters entered the city, senior Afghan government officials fled the country and gunfire was heard at Kabul airport. As the situation worsened, the defense secretary Lloyd Austin ordered the deployment of 1,000 more US troops into Afghanistan, rerouting them from their initial destination in Kuwait, a defense official told CNN.
The new orders bring the total number of US troops expected in the country to 6,000.
The US increased its military posture in the country as Afghan officials handed over the Presidential Palace in Kabul to the Taliban, a transition carried live on the television network al Jazeera, which reported that three Afghan officials were present for the ceremony.
Early on Sunday, sources said that the plan was to pull all US personnel from the embassy in Kabul over the next 72 hours. Hours later, most US embassy staff had been moved to Kabul airport for flights out of the country.
By early Monday morning in Afghanistan, or 5 p.m. Sunday ET, the US had airlifted about 500 embassy staff from Afghanistan out of a total 4,000 employees, US citizens and Afghans. The official said the 4,000 total did not include family members of Afghan embassy employees. The US plan for those family members wasn’t clear and the State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The rush to the exits marked an unsettling, tragic end to the US presence in Afghanistan as the Taliban retook control nearly 20 years after the US invaded to avenge the terror attacks of September 2001.