US left Bagram airfield at night without notice to Afghanistan base commander.
The United States left Afghanistan’s Bagram Airfield after nearly 20 years cutting power and sneaking into the night without notifying the new Afghan base commander, who discovered the Americans’ departure more than two hours after their departure, officials said. Afghan military.
Afghanistan’s military showed off the sprawling airbase on Monday, providing a first glimpse of what had been the epicenter of America’s war to overthrow the Taliban and hunt down the al-Qaeda perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks. in the United States.
The United States announced on Friday that it had completely abandoned its largest airfield in the country before a final withdrawal that the Pentagon says will be completed by the end of August.
“We heard some rumors that the Americans had left Bagram and finally, at seven in the morning, we understood that it had been confirmed that they had already left Bagram,” said General Mir Asadullah Kohistani, Bagram’s new commander. .
The US military spokesman, Colonel Sonny Leggett, did not refer to the specific complaints of many Afghan soldiers who inherited the abandoned airfield, but referred to a statement last week.
The statement said the handover of the many bases had been in the works shortly after President Joe Biden’s mid-April announcement that the United States was withdrawing the last of its forces. Leggett said in the statement that they had coordinated their departures with the leaders of Afghanistan.
Before the Afghan army could take control of the airfield an hour’s drive from the Afghan capital, Kabul, it was overrun by a small army of looters, who looted barrack after barrack and rummaged through giant tents before being evicted. according to Afghan military officials.
“At first we thought maybe they were Taliban,” said Abdul Raouf, a 10-year-old soldier. He said the United States called from the Kabul airport and said “we are here at the Kabul airport.”
Kohistani insisted that the Afghanistan Defense and National Security Force could keep the base heavily fortified despite a series of Taliban victories on the battlefield. The airfield also includes a prison with some 5,000 prisoners, many of them allegedly Taliban.
The latest rise in the Taliban comes as the last US and NATO forces withdraw from the country. Until last week, most of the NATO soldiers had already quietly left. The last of the US soldiers are likely to stay until a deal to protect Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport is completed, which Turkey is expected to do.
Meanwhile, in northern Afghanistan, district after the district has fallen to the Taliban. In the past two days alone, hundreds of Afghan soldiers crossed the border into Tajikistan instead of fighting insurgents.
“In battle, sometimes it’s a step forward and a few steps back,” Kohistani said.
Kohistani said the Afghan army is changing its strategy to focus on strategic districts. He insisted that they would be taken again in the next few days without saying how it would be accomplished.
On Monday, a huge facility, the size of a small town, that had been used exclusively by the United States and NATO, was on display. The size is extraordinary, with roads running through barracks and buildings that look like hangars. There are two runways and more than 100 combat aircraft parking spots known as liners because of the protective walls that protect each aircraft. One of the two runways is 12,000 feet (3,660 meters) long and was built in 2006. There is a passenger lounge, a 50-bed hospital, and giant hangar-sized tents filled with supplies like furniture.
Kohistani said the United States left 3.5 million items, all detailed by the departing US military. They include tens of thousands of bottles of water, energy drinks, and military-ready meals, known as MREs.
“When you say 3.5 million items, it’s all small items, like every phone, every doorknob, every window in every barracks, every door in every barracks,” he said.
The high-priced items that remain include thousands of civilian vehicles, many of them without keys to start them, and hundreds of armored vehicles. Kohistani said the United States also left them small arms and ammunition, but the retreating troops took heavy weapons. Ammunition for weapons that were not left behind for the Afghan military blew up before they left.
Afghan soldiers roaming the base on Monday that had once seen as many as 100,000 US soldiers deeply criticized how the United States left Bagram, and left at night without warning Afghan soldiers tasked with patrolling the perimeter.
“In one night, they lost all the goodwill of 20 years by leaving as they did, at night, without notifying the Afghan soldiers who were outside patrolling the area,” said Afghan soldier Naematullah, who asked that only his name be called. Name. use.
Within 20 minutes of the United States’ silent departure on Friday, the power was cut and the base was plunged into darkness, said Raouf, the 10-year-old soldier who has also served in Taliban strongholds in Helmand and Kandahar provinces.
The sudden darkness was like a signal to the looters, he said. They entered from the north, breaking through the first barrier, looting buildings, loading everything that wasn’t nailed down onto trucks.
On Monday, three days after leaving the United States, Afghan soldiers continued to collect piles of garbage that included empty water bottles, cans, and empty energy drinks left by looters.
Meanwhile, Kohistani said the nearly 20 years of US and NATO involvement in Afghanistan is appreciated, but now is the time for Afghans to step up.