NATIONAL NEWS

US Hands Bagram Airfield To Afghans After Nearly 20 Years

Jul 2, 2021, 5:16 AM
FILE: Members of the United States Air Force deployed for Mission Resolute Support prepare an F-16 ...
FILE: Members of the United States Air Force deployed for Mission Resolute Support prepare an F-16 Jet for a flight at Bagram Air Field on September 5, 2017 in Bagram, Afghanistan. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — After nearly 20 years, the U.S. military left Bagram Airfield, the epicenter of its war to oust the Taliban and hunt down the al-Qaida perpetrators of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America, two U.S. officials said Friday.

The airfield was handed over to the Afghan National Security and Defense Force in its entirety, they said on condition they not be identified because they were not authorized to release the information to the media.

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

Miller met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Friday and according to a Dari-language tweet by the presidential palace the two discussed “continued U.S. assistance and cooperation with Afghanistan, particularly in supporting the defense and security forces.”

There were no specifics but the U.S. is already committed to paying nearly $4 billion annually until 2024 to finance the Afghani national security forces. While no one was calling Miller’s visit a farewell, in the backdrop of the evacuation of Bagram Airfield it had the hallmarks of a goodbye.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s district administrator for Bagram, Darwaish Raufi, said the American departure was d one overnight without any coordination with local officials, and as a result early Friday dozens of local looters stormed through the unprotected gates before Afghan forces regained control.

“They were stopped and some have been arrested and the rest have been cleared from the base,” Raufi told The Associated Press, adding that the looters ransacked several buildings before being arrested and the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces (ANDSF) took control.

“Unfortunately the Americans left without any coordination with Bagram district officials or the governor’s office,” Raufi said. “Right now our Afghan security forces are in control both inside and outside of the base.”

The deputy spokesman for the defense minister, Fawad Aman, said nothing of the early morning looting. He said only the base has been handed over and the “ANDSF will protect the base and use it to combat terrorism.”

The Taliban too welcomed the American withdrawal from Bagram Airfield. In a tweet by spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, they called it a “positive step,” urging for the “withdrawal of foreign forces from all parts of the country.”

The previous U.S. administration had signed an agreement with the Taliban promising to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan.

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

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

Most NATO soldiers have already quietly exited as of this week. Announcements from several countries analyzed by The Associated Press show that a majority of European troops has now 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 U.S. invasion in 2001.

The U.S. has refused to say when the last U.S. soldier would leave Afghanistan, citing security concerns, but also the protection of Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport is still being negotiated. Turkish and U.S. soldiers currently are protecting the airport. That protection is currently covered under the Resolute Support Mission, which is the military mission being wound down.

Until a new agreement for the airport’s protection is negotiated between Turkey and the Afghan government, and possibly the United States, the Resolute Support mission would appear to have to continue in order to give international troops the legal authority.

The U.S. will also have about 650 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 U.S. and NATO leaving comes as Taliban insurgents make strides in several parts of the country, overrunning dozens of districts and overwhelming 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. At what had all the hallmarks of a final press conference, Gen. Miller this week warned that continued violence risked a civil war in Afghanistan that should have the world worried.

At its peak around 2012, Bagram Airfield saw more than 100,000 U.S. troops pass through its sprawling compound barely an hour’s drive north of the Afghan capital Kabul.

The departure is rife with symbolism. Not least, it’s the second time that an invader of Afghanistan has come and gone through Bagram.

The Soviet Union built the airfield in the 1950s. When it invaded Afghanistan in 1979 to back a communist government, it turned it into its main base from which it would defend its occupation of the country. For 10 years, the Soviets fought the U.S.-backed mujahedeen, dubbed freedom fighters by President Ronald Reagan, who saw them as a front-line force in one of the last Cold War battles.

When the U.S. and NATO inherited Bagram in 2001, they found it in ruins, a collection of crumbling buildings, gouged by rockets and shells, most of its perimeter fence wrecked. It had been abandoned after being battered in the battles between the Taliban and rival mujahedeen warlords fleeing to their northern enclaves.

The enormous base has two runways. The most recent, at 12,000 feet long, was built in 2006 at a cost of $96 million. There are 110 revetments, which are basically parking spots for aircraft, protected by blast walls. GlobalSecurity, a security think tank, says Bagram includes three large hangars, a control tower and numerous support buildings. The base has a 50-bed hospital with a trauma bay, three operating theaters and a modern dental clinic. Another section houses a prison, notorious and feared among Afghans.

There was no immediate comment from Afghan officials as to the final withdrawal from Bagram Airfield by the U.S. and its NATO allies.

___

Associated Press Writer Lolita Baldor in Washington, Farid Tanha, in Bagram, Afghanistan and Rahim Faiez in Kabul, Afghanistan contributed to this report.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

National News

Taylor Goodridge...
Tyler Kingkade, NBC News

Utah boarding school ignored teen’s sickness complaints before she died, ex-staff say

A Native American teenager who died while attending a Utah boarding school for at-risk youth had been sick in the weeks beforehand, but staff had been trained to assume students would lie about being ill and did not try to bring her to the hospital until the day she died, former staff members said in interviews. 
22 hours ago
Bed Bath And Beyond is in financial trouble...
Paul R. La Monica and Nathaniel Meyersohn, CNN

Bed Bath & Beyond says it can no longer pay its debts

(CNN) — The end could be near for struggling retailer Bed Bath & Beyond, as it warned in a regulatory filing Thursday that it received a notice of default from its lender, JPMorgan Chase. Shares of Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY) plunged more than 20% on the news, to about $2.56 a share. The company […]
22 hours ago
The rotation of Earth's core may have paused, scientists in China have suggested. (Adobe Stock via ...
Lianne Kolirin

Earth’s inner core may have stopped turning and could go into reverse, study suggests

The rotation of Earth's inner core may have paused and it could even go into reverse, new research suggests.
22 hours ago
A worker rings up a customer at a cash register in a Walmart store on January 24, 2023 in Miami, Fl...
Paul Wiseman, Associated Press

US economy slowed but still grew at 2.9% rate last quarter

The U.S. economy expanded at a 2.9% annual pace from October through December, ending 2022 with momentum despite the pressure of high interest rates and widespread fears of a looming recession.
22 hours ago
Chunli Zhao appears for his arraignment at San Mateo Superior court in Redwood City, Calif., on Wed...
Olga R. Rodriguez and Jocelyn Gecker, Associated Press

Suspect in Half Moon Bay farm killings faces 7 murder counts

A farmworker accused of killing seven people in shootings at two Northern California mushroom farms has been charged with seven counts of murder.
22 hours ago
In an aerial view, San Francisco police officers and F.B.I. agents gather in front of the home of U...
Adam Beam, Associated Press

California judge orders release of footage of Pelosi attack

Footage of the attack on former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband will be released publicly.
22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 Reasons You May Want to Consider Apartment Life Over Owning a Home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t Let a Ransomware Attack Get You Down | Protect Your Workplace Today with Cyber Insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
US Hands Bagram Airfield To Afghans After Nearly 20 Years