Afghan military officials said the United States left Afghanistan’s Bagram airport after nearly 20 years, cutting off the electricity and fleeing at night without alerting the new Afghan commander to al-Qaeda, who discovered the Americans had left more than two hours after their departure.
The United States announced on Friday that it had completely evacuated its largest airport in the country before permanently withdrawing all but a few hundred American troops from Afghanistan by the end of August.
“Mine [heard] General Mir Asadullah Kohistani, the new commander of Bagram, told the Associated Press that according to some rumors, the Americans left Bagram … Finally at 7:00 am, we realized that it was confirmed that they had already left Bagram.
The Afghan military conducted a survey of a vast air base on Monday, allowing reporters to visit the heavily fortified compound.
“They (the Americans) are completely absent now and everything is under our control, including the control towers, the air traffic and the hospital,” a senior Afghan government official told Reuters.
Bagram has long been a symbol of Western forces deployed to support the Afghan government, which is currently facing a Taliban attack that has led to the withdrawal of most US and NATO forces.
The Taliban took control of districts in Badakhshan and Kandahar provinces over the weekend, forcing Afghan government forces to flee across the Tajik border. Last week, Taliban fighters launched an attack on the central Afghan city of Ghazni on the highway linking the capital, Kabul, to the southern province of Kandahar.
In Bagram, dozens of vehicles left by the United States parked in the building on Monday, while others traveled with Afghan officials and individuals. Radars swayed as soldiers guarded, and hundreds of Afghan security personnel moved into the barracks where American soldiers once lived.
The Afghan soldiers who toured the base, which once housed as many as 100,000 US troops, criticize how the US left Bagram.
“Overnight, they lost all goodwill to leave as they did last night without informing Afghan soldiers who patrolled the area outside,” said Afghan soldier Nimatullah, who asked that only one name be used. .
Before the Afghan army could take control of the airport, about an hour’s drive from the Afghan capital, Kabul, a small group of looters looted barracks behind barracks and searched huge storage tents before taking them out, Afghan military officials said.
“At first we thought it might be the Taliban,” Abdul Raouf, a 10-year-old soldier, told The Associated Press. He said the United States called from Kabul airport and said, “We are here at Kabul airport.”
US Colonel Sonny Leggett, the official spokesman for the US military in Afghanistan, did not address the specific complaints of many Afghan soldiers, but rather referred to a US statement issued last week.
The statement said the delivery was underway shortly after President Joe Biden announced in mid-April that the United States would withdraw its forces from Afghanistan. Leggett said in a statement that they are coordinating their departure with Afghan leaders.
The United States announced on July 2 that it had completely evacuated its largest airport in the country ahead of the final withdrawal, which the Pentagon said would be completed by the end of August.
Kohistani, commander of the new airport, insisted that the Afghan security and defense forces could maintain a heavily fortified base despite the Taliban’s string of battlefield victories. There is also a prison at the airport with about 5,000 prisoners, many of whom are allegedly members of the Taliban.
Meanwhile, government-controlled neighborhoods and markets were preparing for what was to come.
It wouldn’t be a problem for us if there were foreign forces [here] “Or they are leaving, but the fact that the Taliban control the areas affects our work all the time,” Waseem Sherzad, the shop owner, told Reuters.
Another shopkeeper, Nematullah Firdaus, agreed: “Most shopkeepers do not invest…because they are hesitant about the country’s future.”