The final U.S. soldier to leave Afghanistan after 20 years at war has been named as Major General Christopher Donahue, who was pictured striding onto the last plane out of Kabul on Monday.
Donahue, commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division, left the country on an Air Force transport plane which carried a remaining contingent of troops from Kabul airport.
Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, said the last planes took off from Kabul airport at 3:29pm Washington time on Monday, or one minute before midnight in Kabul.
Donahue, 52, has three decades of experience, serving in South Korea and Panama before leading troops in the Middle East and North Africa.
Major General Christopher Donahue, 52, was the last soldier to leave Kabul. He boarded the final U.S. Air Force flight out of Afghanistan, at one minute before midnight on Monday
A U.S military aircraft takes off from the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Monday
A two-star general, he has deployed 17 times in support of operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Eastern Europe.
He spent a large amount of his career with the special forces.
Donahue is currently the commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division, based in Fort Bragg, North Carolina
Having graduated from West Point in 1992, he returned to academia with a stint at Harvard as a US Army War College Fellow.
He later moved to Washington, D.C., where he served as special assistant to the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff at the Pentagon.
He took over as commander of Fort Bragg’s 82nd Airborne Division, in North Carolina, in July 2020 and told The Fayetteville Observer that he relished the high tempo of the job.
The division is able to deploy anywhere in the world within 18 hours of notification, in its role as the nation’s Immediate Response Force.
‘It is absolutely the most enjoyable, rewarding and best job I’ve ever had, hands down,’ he said.
‘I’ve had some pretty cool jobs, but I tell you this is the coolest job ever.’
Before coming to the 82nd, Donahue served as commander of Special Operations Joint Task Force-Afghanistan.
Gen. Frank McKenzie, Commander of the U.S. Central Command, speaks from MacDill Air Force Base, in Tampa during a virtual briefing moderated by Pentagon spokesman John Kirby on Monday
Donahue (center) is pictured with his men on the tarmac in Afghanistan
Donahue said that commanding the 82nd Airborne Division is the ‘coolest’ job of his storied career
He was deployed in mid August – before the fall of Kabul – alongside 3,500 to 4,000 paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division to Kuwait, where they were put on standby to provide security at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul if needed.
A battalion of about 1,000 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division immediately deployed to Kabul over the weekend.
The Fort Bragg brigade combat team headed to Kuwait.
John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, said the 82nd Airborne Division is in Afghanistan because of its abilities as the Global Response Force.
Donahue is seen at the change of command ceremony in Fort Bragg in July 2020
Donahue is pictured (far right) in Afghanistan – one of his 17 deployments in 30 years
A CH-47 Chinook from the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division is loaded onto a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III on Saturday as the troops prepared to depart
‘Their job is to be ready to assist in a very expeditious manner, and the task of securing and operating an airfield is actually a unique task that the 82nd can do and Gen. Donahue has experience in that,’ Kirby said.
‘Elements of the 82nd Airborne Division have already been flowing in to do the actual mission of security of (the airport).’
On August 17 Kirby said that Donahue’s focus was the security mission at the airport.
The airport had become a U.S.-controlled island – a last stand in a 20-year war that claimed more than 2,400 American lives.
The closing hours of the evacuation were marked by extraordinary drama.
American troops faced the daunting task of getting final evacuees onto planes while also getting themselves and some of their equipment out, even as they monitored repeated threats – and at least two actual attacks – by the Islamic State group’s Afghanistan affiliate.
A suicide bombing on August 26 killed 13 American service members and some 169 Afghans.
By the evacuation’s conclusion, well over 100,000 people, mostly Afghans, had been flown to safety.
President Joe Biden, first lady Jill Biden, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken look on as as a carry team moves a transfer case with the remains of Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, 22, of Logansport, Ind., during a casualty return at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Sunday
The XVIII Airborne Corps, whose forces go by the Sky Dragons, were among the last to step off Afghan soil as the total withdrawal of U.S. forces concluded Monday, ahead of the August 31 deadline.
‘In awe of our Sky Dragon Soldiers,’ the XVIII Airborne Corps tweeted along with an nightvision image of Donahue.
The 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions of the Army, among others, fall under the command of XVIII Airborne Corps.
‘This was an incredibly tough, pressurized mission filled with multiple complexities, with active threats the entire time. Our troops displayed grit, discipline and empathy,’ the corps wrote in its tweet.
It added: ‘Below is a picture of the last Soldier to leave Afghanistan.’
The Pentagon announced an end to the U.S. war in Afghanistan on Monday afternoon after 20 years and the deaths of almost 2,500 troops.
Biden will make remarks on the historic occasion on Tuesday afternoon.
Witnesses in Kabul said the Taliban let off celebratory gunfire as news circulated that the final U.S. flight had left.
It means Biden managed to meet his August 31 deadline and removes American personnel from danger.
But it comes at the cost of letting a militant group retake the country.