The US military vacated Bagram air force base after 20 years of war as the Biden administration continues to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, The Washington Post reports.
Bagram airbase, which is just north of Kabul, has been one of the most significant airfields since the war began following the 9/11 attacks. The military used it at its headquarters for US Special Operations and to launch airstrikes against the Taliban and militants.
More recently, the military has used the airfield for hundreds of flights to remove troops and equipment from the region and to destroy equipment to prevent it from being seized by Taliban forces.
Military spokesman Army Col. Sonny Leggett said that the transfer of the base to the Afghan government “was an extensive process spanning several weeks.”
“All handovers of Resolute Support bases and facilities, to include Bagram Airfield, have been closely coordinated, both with senior leaders from the government and with our Afghan partners in the security forces, including leadership of the locally based units respective to each base,” he said.
Afghan official says military bungled withdrawal:
Darwish Raufi, the governor of the district where Bagram is located, said the military excluded him from the process and left “without coordinating with security and defense forces and in general without coordinating" with the federal and district governments.
“Some looters went in, some of them were arrested and some others escaped,” he said. “They were in for equipment that they could carry. They have stolen some carriable equipment.”
An Afghan defense ministry spokesman vowed that defense forces “will protect the base and use it to combat terrorism.”
US shrinking presence:
Military leaders met with the Afghan government on Friday to discuss how the two countries will cooperate after the withdrawal.
The military still plans a “smaller American security mission” in the country.
Former Pentagon official Mark Mulroy warned that the rapid withdrawal “may be a testament to the logistical capabilities of our force, but it also is not allowing for a buffer to see if the Afghan security forces will hold against the Taliban without our direct support.”