After nearly 20 years, the US gives Bagram Airfield to Afghans

Two U.S. officials announced Friday that the U.S. military had left Bagram Airfield after nearly 20 years. It was the epicenter of their war to expel the Taliban and hunt down al-Qaida terrorists responsible for the attacks on America.

After nearly 20 years, the US gives Bagram Airfield to Afghans

They said that the entire airfield was transferred to the Afghan National Security and Defense Force. However, they did not want to be identified as they weren't authorized to disclose the information to the media.

Another official stated that Gen. Austin S. Miller (the U.S.'s top commander in Afghanistan), "still retains all of the capabilities and authority to protect the forces."

Miller met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Friday. According to a Dari language tweet from the presidential palace, they discussed "continued U.S. aid and cooperation with Afghanistan," particularly in support of the security forces.

Although there were no details, the U.S. has already committed to funding Afghan security forces with nearly $4 billion per year until 2024. Although Miller's visit was not a farewell, it did have the appearance of one.

Darwaish Rafi, Afghanistan's district administrator, stated that the Americans left Bagram overnight without any coordination. As a result, looters from the area stormed the gates unprotected before the Afghan forces regained control.

Raufi said that they stopped the looters and some were taken into custody. The rest were removed from the base. Raufi also told The Associated Press that looters had ransacked many buildings before being captured by the Afghan forces.

Raufi stated that the Americans had left Bagram without having any coordination with the governor's office or Bagram district officials. "Right now, our Afghan security forces have control both within and outside the base."

Col. Sonny Leggett, U.S. military spokesperson, said that the handover took place over several weeks after President Joe Biden announced in mid-April that America would be withdrawing its last forces.

Col. Leggett stated that all handovers of Resolute Support facilities and bases, including Bagram Airfield, were closely coordinated with both senior government officials and our Afghan security partners, as well as the leadership of each base's local units.

Fawad Aman was the defense minister's deputy spokesperson. He did not mention the looting in the early hours of the morning. Fawad Aman, the defense minister's deputy spokesman, said that only the base had been transferred and that Afghan forces would now "protect it and use it for fighting terrorism."

The Taliban welcomed the American withdrawal of Bagram Airfield. The Trump administration reached a peace agreement with the Taliban in February 2020 promising to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan.

Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban's spokesperson, tweeted Friday's departure as a "positive move" and urged for the "withdrawal foreign forces from all areas of the country."

This is the most clear indication that the last of the 2,500-3500 U.S. soldiers have left Afghanistan or are close to leaving -- months before Biden's promise that they would be gone on Sept. 11.

Soon after the U.S. announced in mid-April that it was ending its "forever warfare", it became clear that the U.S. would soon be completing the departure of its soldiers and its estimated 7,000 NATO allies closer to July 4, when America celebrates Independence Day.

Most NATO soldiers had quietly left Afghanistan by this week. The AP has analyzed announcements from several countries and found that the majority of European troops have left without much ceremony. This contrasts with the public display of force and unity in which NATO allies backed the U.S. invasion of 2001.

The U.S. refused to give a date for the departure of American soldiers from Afghanistan due to security concerns. However, future security and protection of Kabul International Airport are still being negotiated. The airport is currently being protected by U.S. and Turkish soldiers. This is still the military mission that is ending.

The Resolute Support mission will continue to manage the facility until a new agreement is reached between Turkey and Afghanistan.

To protect its sprawling Embassy in Kabul, the U.S. will have approximately 650 troops. They will be covered by a bilateral agreement with Afghanistan.

As the Taliban take control of several areas of Afghanistan, they are able to overthrow dozens of districts and overwhelm the beleaguered Afghan security forces.

A worrying development is that the government has revived militias with a history in brutal violence to aid Afghan security forces. Gen. Miller warned this week that Afghanistan's civil war could be possible if violence continues.

Bagram Airfield was home to more than 100,000 U.S. troops at its peak around 2012, which was less than an hour drive north of Kabul.

This departure is full of symbolism. It's the second time that an invading force from Afghanistan has passed through Bagram.

In the 1950s, the Soviet Union constructed the airfield. It made Bagram its main base after it invaded Afghanistan in 1979. The Soviets fought the U.S.-backed mujahedeen for 10 years. President Ronald Reagan referred to them as freedom fighters because they saw them as a front line force in one of last Cold War battles.

Bagram was left in ruins by the U.S., NATO, and other countries when they took over in 2001. They found a number of buildings in disrepair, and most of the perimeter fence had been destroyed. After being battered by the Taliban and rival mujahedeen warriors fleeing to northern enclaves, it was abandoned.

Two runways are available at the base. The longest, measuring 12,000 feet, was constructed in 2006 at a cost $96 million. 110 revetments are basically aircraft parking spaces, and are protected by blast walls. GlobalSecurity, an international security think tank, states that Bagram has three large hangars and a control tower, as well as many support buildings. There is a 50-bed hospital, three operating theatres, and a modern dental office. A prison is also located in another section, which is well-known and highly feared by Afghans.

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