‘A lot of heartbreak’ as US military leaves Kabul, hundreds left behind ‘afraid and feeling abandoned’

After 20-plus years, the United States officially ended its military involvement in Afghanistan on Monday on the arbitrary deadline set by President Joe Biden, and while the administration tried to celebrate the historic nature of a frantic evacuation effort, no mission that leaves American citizens behind enemy lines can be deemed a success.

Not only were Americans left behind, many Afghans with Special Immigrant Visas and other Afghan allies who risked their lives to help the U.S. were also left behind, people who are at great risk of death at the hands of the Taliban.

ABC News senior foreign correspondent Ian Pannell acknowledged the people who were still in Afghanistan, “at home, afraid, and feeling abandoned.”

Pannell noted in his reporting Monday that he was in Kabul the day the Taliban fled and was in the city the day they triumphantly returned.

“And I think that will leave many Afghans wondering what this was all about, what happened to their hopes, their dreams, the lives that they built,” he said.

(Video: ABC News)

“I’ve done multiple embeds with U.S. troops, with British troops, and of course for them there didn’t seem to be an end in sight for this combat mission,” Pannell said. “For them, it had to come to an end.”

“Many people will be left questioning tonight about the way those decisions were made, the way the evacuation was handled,” he added. “And a final thought really just to those people still stuck in Afghanistan at home, afraid, and feeling abandoned.”

The Defense Department released a photo of Maj. Gen. Chris Donahue, commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division, identifying him as the last American soldier to leave Afghanistan.

In announcing all U.S. troops were out of Afghanistan, Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., U.S. CENTCOM commander, acknowledged that Americans were left behind, saying he believes that number to be in the “very low hundreds.”

“There’s a lot of heartbreak associated with this departure,” McKenzie said. “We did not get out everybody that we wanted to get out.”

Echoing the Biden administration talking points, the general spoke of a “diplomatic sequel” that will now begin.”

“Our desire to bring these people out remains as intense as it was before,” McKenzie said. “The weapons have just shifted … from the military realm to the diplomatic realm.”

Never mind that President Biden vowed to the American people just two weeks ago that he would not leave Americans behind:

Secretary of State Antony Blinken defended the Biden administration’s decision to abandon Americans in Afghanistan.

“We made extraordinary efforts to give Americans every opportunity to depart the country, in many cases talking, and sometimes walking them to the airport,” Blinken said. “We believe there are still a small number of Americans, under 200, and likely closer to 100, who remain in Afghanistan and want to leave.”

Fox News host Sean Hannity said late Monday there’s reason to suspect the number may be much higher, possible as high as a thousand or more.

Blinken touted the fact that about 6,000 Americans were among the 123,000 people who were taken out of the country. Many, if not most, being unvetted Afghan citizens who allegedly played no role in assisting the U.S.

“A new chapter of engagement with Afghanistan has begun,” he then declared. “The military mission is over. A new diplomatic mission has begun.”

The Taliban now control the airport in Kabul and the secretary said he expects them to reopen the facility “in a timely fashion.” In a possible tip of the hand on how he thinks that will go, Blinken said “there are other ways to leave Afghanistan, including by road and many countries border Afghanistan.”

The top U.S. diplomat also said “we will hold the Taliban to its pledge to let people freely depart Afghanistan.”

“More than half the world’s countries have joined us in insisting that the Taliban let people travel outside Afghanistan freely,” Blinken said. “As of today, more than 100 countries have said that they expect the Taliban to honor travel authorizations by our countries.”

Somehow, it’s hard to imagine the Taliban being persuaded by world opinion.

Tom Tillison

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