As the last U.S. troops depart Bagram Air Base, the end of American military presence in Afghanistan is in sight.
Following the 9/11 attacks, the first U.S. troops landed at Bagram. Since then, the once broken down runway became its own small city for the many who worked on the base and at its facilities. The two-mile stretch was the hub for all military operations throughout Afghanistan and had been visited by Bush, Obama, and Trump during their presidencies. Rohullah Ahamadzai, spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defense told CNN that Bagram was officially transferred to the Afghan military on Friday.
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This move signals an earlier than anticipated end to America’s longest war after the Biden administration’s original promise of removing the remaining troops by September 11. Over the years, the base was the target of several incidents instigated by the Taliban, including rocket attacks and suicide bombings. U.S. intelligence has estimated that the Afghan government could fall to the Taliban in six months to two years after the completion of American withdrawal (NYT).
In the past two months, the Taliban have crept closer to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul after taking roughly 25 percent of the country’s districts. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mojahid told CNN, “The presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan was a reason for continuation of fighting in the country.” He continued, “If foreign forces leave Afghanistan, Afghans can decide future issues among themselves. We will step forward for the security of the country and our hope for the peace would increase.”
Many Afghans, however, are not as confident about the future of their country. An employee for a logistics company in Kabul, Sayed Reja, believes Americans “shouldn’t go this soon.” Reja went on to say, “They could have stayed for longer until the Afghanistan government was on its feet. But now they have left, and we cannot stop them from leaving Afghanistan.”
Another Kabul man, Ilyas, commented similarly, “First of all this is the decision of the USA, we have to respect that it is their decision,” he added, “but for Afghans that is a really big problem, now the war between the Afghan government and the Taliban will be worse. The Taliban has reached the border of the cities and this is a big problem. Now Afghan people are afraid for our future and they are concerned about what the future holds.” Top American commander in Afghanistan, General Austin S. Miller, said, “Civil war is certainly a path that can be visualized.”