US troops leave Afghan airbase in Bagram after nearly 20 years

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US troops leave Afghan airbase in Bagram after nearly 20 years


After nearly 20 years, the US military left Bagram Airfield, the epicenter of its war, to oust the Taliban and track down the al-Qaida perpetrators of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The airfield was handed over in its entirety to the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces, two US officials said on Friday on condition that they were not identified because they were not authorized to release the information to the media.

One of the officials also said that the US Commander-in-Chief in Afghanistan, General Austin S Miller, “still retains all capabilities and authorities to protect the forces.”

The withdrawal from Bagram Airfield is the clearest indication that the last of the 2,500 to 3,500 American troops have left Afghanistan or are about to leave, months before President Joe Biden’s pledge that they would have left on September 11.

It was clear shortly after the announcement in mid-April that the United States was ending its “Eternal War,” that the departure of American soldiers and their nearly 7,000 NATO allies would be closer to the end. July 4, when America celebrates its Independence Day.

Most of the NATO troops have already quietly gone out this week. Announcements from several countries analyzed by the Associated Press show that a majority of European troops have now left without ceremony – a stark contrast to the dramatic public display of strength and unity when NATO allies aligned to support the American invasion in 2001.

The United States declined to say when the last American soldier would leave Afghanistan, citing security concerns, but the protection of Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport is still being negotiated. Turkish and American soldiers protect the airport, but this protection is provided as part of the Resolute Support mission, which is the mission being liquidated.

Until a new airport protection deal is negotiated between Turkey and the Afghan government, and possibly the United States, the mission looks set to continue in order to give international troops the authority. legal.

The United States will also have around 6,500 troops in Afghanistan to protect its sprawling embassy in the capital. It is understood that their presence will be covered by a bilateral agreement with the Afghan government.

The departure of the United States and NATO comes as Taliban insurgents advance in several parts of the country, invading dozens of districts and overwhelming besieged Afghan security forces.

In a disturbing development, the government has resurrected militias with a history of brutal violence to aid Afghan security forces. In what had all the hallmarks of a final press conference, General Miller this week warned that continued violence risked a civil war in Afghanistan that should worry the world.

At its peak, Bagram Airfield saw more than 100,000 US troops pass through its sprawling compound just an hour’s drive north of the Afghan capital Kabul.

There was no immediate comment from Afghan officials regarding the final withdrawal from Bagram Airfield by the United States and its NATO allies.

The departure is the second time that an invader from Afghanistan has passed through Bagram. The Soviet Union built the airfield in the 1950s. When it invaded Afghanistan in 1979 to support a Communist government, it made it its main base from which it would defend its occupation of the country.

When the United States and NATO inherited Bagram in 2001, they found it in ruins, a set of crumbling buildings, carved out by rockets and shells, most of its perimeter fence destroyed.

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