Chief of the Defence Force General Angus Campbell has announced that the ADF has officially completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan, bringing Australia's longest-ever war to a close.
General Campbell made the announcement on social media on Monday.
41 Australian soldiers lost their lives in Afghanistan, hundreds of others were injured and an even higher number have taken their own lives since 2001.
By some estimates, the casualty count of two decades of war includes: 3,586 US and allied personnel; 75,971 Afghan military and police; 78,314 civilians; and 84,191 opposition fighters, including the Taliban.
The Taliban are now resurgent across the country and have captured numerous districts that were once held by coalition forces as hundreds of Afghan soldiers flee into neighbouring states.
The ABC reported that the last Australian troops actually left Kabul in mid-June amidst what one Defence official called a 'rush for the door' before the 11 September deadline set by US President Joe Biden. US forces reportedly abandoned the once-sprawling Bagram operating base in the middle of the night and left thousands of vehicles and other equipment for looters, allegedly without informing their Afghan counterparts: a scene reminiscent of their departure from embassy rooftops in Vietnam almost half a century ago.
Should the Taliban topple the central government in Kabul – which US intelligence agencies believe will happen within six months given the speed of the insurgents' advance in northern Afghanistan – the country will return largely to what it looked like prior to the start of the war in September 2001, although al-Qaida has been diminished.
Conversely, if the Taliban's siege of government-controlled cities is unsuccessful, then analysts believe the group will settle for a share in government as a 'stepping stone' towards re-establishing the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
ADM Comment: The end of the coalition presence in Afghanistan marks the beginning of a great deal of uncertainty. Will the Taliban regain full control of the country? Will terrorist groups re-establish themselves in the ensuing chaos? What role will Russia, China and Iran play in Afghanistan's future?
Australia has been at war in Afghanistan for almost my entire life. Friends I played wall-ball with in primary school went on to fight the Taliban ten years later, and that was only halfway through the two-decade saga that has officially come to a close - although veterans of the conflict will now suffer its consequences for decades to come.
The only certainty that seems to emerge from this retreat is that the harsh mountains and valleys of Afghanistan retain their historic reputation as the graveyard of empires.