U.S. military leaves NATO news at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan 20 years later
Two U.S. officials said that nearly 20 years later, U.S. troops have left the Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, which was the center of the war to clear the Taliban and hunt down the al-Qaeda perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks.
According to the Associated Press, the air base has been handed over to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces. They declined to be named on Friday because they have no right to release information to the media.
One of the officials also stated that General Austin S. Miller, the top US commander in Afghanistan, “still retains all the capabilities and powers to protect the force.”
At its peak, Bagram Air Force Base had more than 100,000 American troops passing through a huge compound 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of the capital Kabul.
According to Reuters, an Afghan official stated that the base will be officially handed over to the government at a ceremony on Saturday.
The withdrawal from the air base is the most obvious sign, indicating that the last of the 2,500-3,500 U.S. troops has left Afghanistan or is about to leave, a few months earlier than President Joe Biden promised that they will leave on September 11. .
Soon after it was announced in mid-April that the United States would end its “eternal war”, it became clear that American soldiers and their estimated 7,000 NATO allies would be closer to July 4, when the country celebrated its Independence Day.
As of this week, most NATO soldiers have been evacuated from Afghanistan.
Announcements from several countries analyzed by the Associated Press show that most European troops left without holding any ceremonies—a stark contrast to the dramatic and public display of force and unity when NATO allies lined up to support the US invasion in 2001.
The United States refused to disclose when its last soldier left Afghanistan, citing security issues and the protection of the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, which is still under negotiation. Turkish and American soldiers are currently protecting the airport.
The United States will also deploy about 6,500 soldiers in Afghanistan to protect its huge embassy in the capital. It is understood that their presence will be included in the bilateral agreement with the Afghan government.
As the United States and NATO left Afghanistan, Taliban militants strode forward in many areas of the country, occupying dozens of areas, and overwhelming troubled Afghan security forces.
The worrying development is that the government has resurrected a militia with a history of brutal violence to assist the Afghan security forces.
In a meeting with all the characteristics of the final press conference, General Miller warned this week that continued violence could trigger civil war in Afghanistan, which should worry the world.
Last month, Biden told his Afghan counterpart Ashraf Ghani that “Afghans will have to decide their future and what they want.”
Ghani said that his current job is to “manage the consequences of the U.S. withdrawal.”
The agreement with the Taliban on the withdrawal of American troops was reached under the management of former President Donald Trump.
In exchange for the withdrawal of US troops, the Taliban vowed to prevent any armed organization from launching international attacks from within Afghanistan. It also promised to negotiate with Afghan rivals, but the negotiations have made little progress.
Full of symbolism
The departure of the United States is full of symbolism. Not only that, this is the second time the Afghan invaders have come and passed Bagram.
The former Soviet Union built the airport in the 1950s. When it invaded Afghanistan in 1979 to support the communist government, it turned it into its main base to defend its occupation of the country.
For 10 years, the Soviets fought the “jihadists” supported by the United States, and then President Ronald Reagan regarded them as frontline forces in the last Cold War and called them freedom fighters.
When the United States and NATO succeeded Bagram in 2001, they found it was in ruins, a pile of crumbling buildings were destroyed by rockets and artillery shells, and most of the perimeter fence was destroyed.
It was abandoned after being hit hard in the fighting between the Taliban and rival warlords who fled to the northern enclave.
The huge base has two runways. The most recent one is 12,000 feet (3,660 meters) long and was built in 2006 at a cost of 96 million U.S. dollars. There are 110 revetments, basically parking spaces for aircraft, protected by explosion-proof walls.
According to GlobalSecurity, a security think tank, Bagram includes three large hangars, a control tower and numerous supporting buildings.
The base has a 50-bed hospital, a trauma room, three operating rooms and a modern dental clinic. The other part has a prison, which is notorious and frightening among Afghans.