Ret. Army general says despite ‘strategic failure,’ Afghanistan evacuation an ‘incredible accomplishment’

Lt. Gen. Joe DiSalvo retired in Jacksonville after 37 years in Army

American forces have left Afghanistan. The United States has completed an unmatched evacuation from the country.

The evacuation met President Joe Biden’s withdrawal deadline, but not without bloodshed, violence and chaos.

When Marine Corps Gen. Frank McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command, made the announcement Monday afternoon, he also said that not everyone has escaped or evacuated. McKenzie called it “a tough situation.”

RELATED: US releases names of troops killed in Kabul

“But I want to emphasize again, simply because we have left, that doesn’t mean the opportunities for both Americans that are in Afghanistan that want to leave and other Afghans who want to leave, they will not be denied that opportunity,” he said. “I think our Department of State is going to work that very hard in the days and weeks ahead.”

Lt. Gen. Joe DiSalvo made Jacksonville his home after retiring from the Army, where he spent 37 years.

He described the announcement in bittersweet terms.

“It’s a an incredible accomplishment that’s going to be recognized,” DiSalvo said. “Once the dust settles and we and we look past the strategic failure -- which this was -- the operational side, the evacuation is an incredible accomplishment by all those involved.”

As evacuations were underway at the Kabul airport, a suicide bombing on Thursday killed 13 U.S. service members.

Beyond the “strategic failure,” DiSalvo calls all evacuations “messy” -- especially under conditions like the military saw in Kabul after the Taliban took over.

Using drone strikes after the ISIS-K suicide bombing was especially important, he said.

“I think it’s also key to show that we do have that very effective over-the-horizon capability, which is very hard to do but, again, we’re good at doing it. We’ll be doing for awhile,” he said. “I think this sends a good deterrent signal to those terrorist networks that we will still aggressively hunt down and kill them with all means capable.”

The Secretary of State announced Monday night a new diplomatic mission in Afghanistan, saying the US and allies will work to reopen the airport in Kabul as quickly as possible.

About the Author:

Kent Justice co-anchors News4Jax's 5 p.m., 10 and 11 p.m. newscasts weeknights and reports on government and politics. He also hosts "This Week in Jacksonville," Channel 4's hot topics and politics public affairs show each Sunday morning at 9 a.m.