Troops who took part in Afghan evacuation to receive Presidential Unit Citation

Troops who took part in Afghan evacuation to receive Presidential Unit Citation

Two years after the swift collapse of the U.S.-backed government in Kabul and the chaos of the evacuation, the Pentagon this week confirmed that Marine Corps and Army troops who took part in the final mission in Afghanistan will receive the Presidential Unit Citation, the military’s highest collective award for valor in combat.

The U.S. and its allies evacuated more than 124,000 civilians from Afghanistan, a grim conclusion to a conflict that began with the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on American soil 20 years earlier.

“In recognition of teams that operated and excelled under these difficult and dangerous conditions, I am proud to announce the approval of the Presidential Unit Citation for the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit; the Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command; and Joint Task Force 82 of the 82nd Airborne Division and its supporting units,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Thursday in a statement.

The evacuation from Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport was the final chapter in America’s longest war. U.S. Marines and Army troops were sent there to guard the perimeter as thousands of desperate Afghans tried to push their way inside in hopes of securing a seat on one of the coveted flights out of the country.

On Aug. 26, 2021, a fighter with the Islamic State terror group triggered a suicide bomb at Abbey Gate, one of the checkpoints leading into the airport. The explosion killed 13 U.S. personnel and at least 170 Afghans.

“Throughout America’s longest war, our troops showed great courage and compassion,” Mr. Austin said Thursday. “We bow our heads in memory of the 2,461 service members who never made it home, including the 13 courageous troops taken from us in the attack at Abbey Gate in the final hours of the war.”