The U.S. and NATO formally began withdrawing their last troops from Afghanistan Saturday, according to White House and military officials, bringing America’s longest war closer to an end.
U.S. President Joe Biden set May 1 as the official date on which the remaining troops would begin pulling out, although the military has been flying equipment out of the country in recent weeks.
There are between 2,500-3,500 U.S. troops and about 7,000 NATO troops remaining in Afghanistan, the last of whom will leave by the end of the summer.
Afghan security forces are on high alert for possible attacks on the troops by an emboldened Taliban as they complete the withdrawal, ushering in a new era of uncertainty in the country.
The U.S. and NATO allies entered the South Asian country on October 7, 2001, to find al-Qaida perpetrators of the September 11, 2001, terrorists attack on the U.S. who being were protected by Afghanistan’s Taliban leaders.
Two months later, al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and his fighters were on the run. He was located and killed in 2011 by U.S. Navy SEALS in neighboring Pakistan.
More than 47,240 Afghan civilians have been killed in the 20-year war, according to the Costs of War project at Brown University. Between 66,000 to 69,000 Afghan troops have been killed.
Some 2,442 U.S. troops have been killed, according to the U.S. Defense Department, along with an estimated 3,800 U.S. private security contractors.
More than 1,140 troops from NATO countries have been killed.
The U.S. is estimated to have spent more than $2 trillion in Afghanistan during the course of the war, according to the Costs of War project.