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U.S. military personnel leaving Afghanistan

September 2, 2021

America's Longest War Is Over

Ask students: Who are the individuals and groups of people featured in this story? When did the U.S. completely withdraw from Afghanistan?


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An End to America's Longest War

The final flight of American troops left Afghanistan just before midnight on what is now Tuesday, August 31, in Kabul, after 20 years of war. The U.S. airlifted more than 120,000 American civilians and Afghan allies from Kabul, but thousands of Afghans who wanted to leave were left behind, at least for now. And the deaths of Americans and Afghans last week haunt this exit. Jane Ferguson reports. Read the summary, watch the video and answer the discussion questions. Some students may find it easier to read along with the transcript or turn on closed captions/CC.

Discussion Questions

  • Who are the individuals and groups of people featured in this story?
  • What are some of the major challenges that the U.S. faced leaving Afghanistan? 
  • When did the U.S. completely withdraw from Afghanistan?
  • Where in Afghanistan was most of the attention focused in the last couple of weeks?
  • Why did General McKenzie, Commander of U.S. Central Command, say about the timing and execution of the U.S. leaving Afghanistan when they did?
  • How many American service members were killed in the attack outside the Kabul airport? (see video below)? What do you notice about the service members who died in the attack? How many Afghan people were killed in the bombing, and how do many Afghan allies feel about the U.S.’s withdrawal? 

Focus Questions

  • How has the Afghanistan War impacted your life or someone you know?
  • What does the U.S. government say the plans are to help the thousands of Afghan allies left behind in Afghanistan? What do you think should happen?

Media Literacy: The majority of Americans supported the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan throughout much of the two decades the U.S. was in that country. Support has fallen since the actual withdrawal given its execution, but still the majority remain supportive of the withdrawal. 

Watch MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace discuss the divide between public support of withdrawal from Afghanistan and how the media and politicians feel about it. Wallace was a longtime operative in Republican politics and a staffer in the George W. Bush White House: 

  • Why do you think the news media and lawmakers – Republicans and Democrats alike – do not talk about the majority of Americans who support leaving Afghanistan more?
  • Do you think the media coverage of the Afghanistan withdrawal has been fair and for the most part unbiased? How about the media’s overall coverage of the Afghanistan War for the past two decades? 

Republished with permission from PBS NewsHouer Extra.

PBS NewsHour Classroom

PBS NewsHour Classroom helps teachers and students identify the who, what, where and why-it-matters of the major national and international news stories.

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