US forces leave Afghanistan’s Bagram airbase after 20 years.

Written by on July 2, 2021

Withdrawal a clear indication that the last of 2,500-3,500 US troops have left Afghanistan or are nearing a departure.

2 Jul 2021

After nearly 20 years, the United States military has left Afghanistan’s Bagram airbase, the epicentre of its war to remove the Taliban and hunt down the al-Qaeda perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks, two US officials have said.

The airbase was handed over to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces in its entirety, they said on Friday on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to release the information to the media, The Associated Press reported.

One of the officials also said the US top commander in Afghanistan, General Austin S Miller, “still retains all the capabilities and authorities to protect the forces”.,

An Afghan official said the base would be officially handed over to the government at a ceremony on Saturday, Reuters news agency reported.

The withdrawal from the airbase is the clearest indication that the last of the 2,500-3,500 US troops have left Afghanistan or are nearing a departure, months ahead of President Joe Biden’s promise that they would be gone by September 11.

It was clear soon after the mid-April announcement that the US was ending its “forever war,” that the departure of US soldiers and their estimated 7,000 NATO allies would be nearer to July 4, when the country celebrates its Independence Day.

Most NATO soldiers have already exited Afghanistan as of this week.

Announcements from several countries analysed by The Associated Press show that a majority of European troops left with little ceremony – a stark contrast to the dramatic and public show of force and unity when NATO allies lined up to back the US invasion in 2001.

The US has refused to say when the last of its soldiers would leave Afghanistan, citing security concerns, but also the protection of Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport that is still being negotiated. Turkish and US soldiers currently protect the airport.

The US will also have about 6,500 troops in Afghanistan to protect its sprawling embassy in the capital. Their presence it is understood will be covered in a bilateral agreement with the Afghan government.

The US and NATO leaving Afghanistan come as Taliban fighters make strides in several parts of the country, overrunning dozens of districts and overwhelming the beleaguered Afghan Security Forces.

In a worrying development, the government has resurrected militias with a history of brutal violence to assist the Afghan security forces.

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