KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Taliban fighters watched the last U.S. planes disappear into the night sky and then fired their guns into the air.
They were celebrating victory after 20-year insurgency that drove the world's most powerful military out of one of the poorest countries.
"The last U.S. soldier has left Kabul airport and our country gained complete independence," a Taliban spokesperson was quoted by Al Jazeera TV.
The U.S. departure marks the end of a massive airlift in which tens of thousands of people fled Afghanistan, fearful of the return of Taliban rule after the militants took over most of the country and rolled into the capital earlier this month.
U.S. Gen. Frank McKenzie announced the completion of America’s longest war Monday.
The Department of Defense posted a picture of the last American soldier to leave Afghanistan. Maj. Gen. Chris Donahue is seen boarding a C-17 minutes before the Aug. 31 deadline to leave Afghanistan.
The last American soldier to leave Afghanistan: Maj. Gen. Chris Donahue, commanding general of the @82ndABNDiv, @18airbornecorps boards an @usairforce C-17 on August 30th, 2021, ending the U.S. mission in Kabul. pic.twitter.com/j5fPx4iv6a
— Department of Defense 🇺🇸 (@DeptofDefense) August 30, 2021
The U.S. said while the military mission has ended in Afghanistan, diplomatic efforts will continue.
"We will help them leave," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said about Americans who contact the U.S. about getting out of Afghanistan.
Blinken said the U.S. believes there are fewer than 200 Americans still in Afghanistan.