They say a picture is worth a thousand words and for Major General Chris Donahue, this phrase couldn’t be more apt. In what is now being seen as a defining image of America’s hasty retreat from Afghanistan after a 20-year ‘war on terror’, the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division can be stepping on board a transport plane as the last soldier to leave Kabul.
A handout provided by the US Central Command shows Donahue boarding the plane, which also carried US Ambassador to Afghanistan Ross Wilson, bringing an end to a two-decade mission that began soon after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
As Donahue walks ahead, Hamid Karzai International Airport is seen behind him, the site of recent strife and casualties as thousands of soldiers and Afghan citizens were evacuated ahead of President Joe Biden’s August 31 deadline to withdraw US troops. “(They) were in fact the last people to step on the ground, step on the airplane,” said Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of the US Central Command.
Donahue was commander of the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan before taking command of the 82nd Airborne Division last year, according to the Army.
Donahue, who commissioned into the Army from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1992, is no stranger to Fort Bragg.
He has served on Fort Bragg in various roles within the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, including being an assistant operations officer, squadron operations officer, squadron executive officer, troop commander, selection and training detachment commander, operations officer, squadron commander and deputy brigade commander, his biography states.
After attending Harvard University as an Army War College fellow, he returned to Fort Bragg and commanded a brigade within USASOC and has served as director of operations for the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command.
“In awe of our Sky Dragon Soldiers,” the XVIII Airborne Corps tweeted alongside the photo of Donahue. “This was an incredibly tough, pressurized mission filled with multiple complexities, with active threats the entire time. Our troops displayed grit, discipline and empathy.”
“General Donahue, one of the last things he did before leaving was talk to the Taliban commander that he had been coordinating with about the time that we were going to leave just to let them know that we were leaving,” McKenzie said.