WASHINGTON — After 20 years of occupation, more than 2,400 U.S. troops killed in combat and a frenetic evacuation, in the end, just one last soldier remained on the ground in Afghanistan.
Maj. Gen. Christopher Donahue, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, XVIII Airborne Corps, based in Fort Bragg, N.C., was the final soldier to leave Afghanistan as U.S. troops boarded a C-17 aircraft at the Kabul airport just before a self-imposed U.S. deadline to evacuate.
The Pentagon tweeted a photo recognizing Donahue as the final soldier in America’s longest war, which saw more than 775,000 American troops serve over two decades.
In the photo, Donohue is alone and stone-faced, carrying his firearm, with a Kabul airport hangar behind him as he gets ready to climb aboard the aircraft that left just before a self-imposed U.S. deadline to evacuate.
The photo is shot through a night-vision lens, giving the scene an eerie green tint.
Donahue was deployed to Afghanistan this month to help secure the Kabul airport as the U.S. drew nearer to Tuesday’s withdrawal deadline. U.S. military presence in Afghanistan had increased in recent days but the Pentagon remained tight-lipped on the exact numbers.
Donahue – a former special assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Pentagon – previously served as the commander of special operations joint task force-Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.
Over his long military career, he has been deployed 17 times to carry out operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, North Africa and Eastern Europe.
“In awe of our Sky Dragon Soldiers,” the XVIII Airborne Corps tweeted alongside the photo of Donahue. “This was an incredibly tough, pressurized mission filled with multiple complexities, with active threats the entire time. Our troops displayed grit, discipline and empathy.
Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.