U.S. left Afghan airbase without notice

The American troops did not inform the new commander before leaving the Bagram airfield

July 06, 2021 10:09 pm | Updated 10:10 pm IST - Bagram

An Afghan National Army (ANA) helicopter takes off inside the Bagram US air base after all US and NATO troops left, some 70 Kms north of Kabul on July 5, 2021. (Photo by WAKIL KOHSAR / AFP)

An Afghan National Army (ANA) helicopter takes off inside the Bagram US air base after all US and NATO troops left, some 70 Kms north of Kabul on July 5, 2021. (Photo by WAKIL KOHSAR / AFP)

The U.S. left Afghanistan’s Bagram Airfield after nearly 20 years by shutting off the electricity and slipping away in the night without notifying the base’s new Afghan commander, who discovered the Americans’ departure more than two hours after they left, said Afghan military officials.

Afghanistan’s army showed off the sprawling air base on Monday, providing a first glimpse of what had been the epicenter of America’s war to unseat the Taliban and hunt down the al-Qaeda perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks on America.

The U.S. announced on Friday it had vacated its biggest airfield in the country in advance of a final withdrawal the Pentagon says will be completed by the end of August.

“We [heard] some rumor that the Americans had left Bagram ... and finally by seven o’clock in the morning, we understood that it was confirmed that they had already left Bagram,” said Gen. Mir Asadullah Kohistani, Bagram’s new commander.

U.S. military spokesman Col. Sonny Leggett did not address the complaints of many Afghan soldiers who inherited the abandoned airfield, instead referring to a statement last week. Col. Leggett said in the statement that they had coordinated their departures with Afghanistan’s leaders.

Before the Afghan army could take control of the airfield, it was invaded by a small army of looters, who ransacked barracks and rummaged through storage tents before being evicted, according to Afghan military officials.

“At first, we thought maybe they were the Taliban,” said Abdul Raouf, a soldier. He said the the U.S. called from the Kabul airport and said “we are here at the airport in Kabul”.

The last U.S. soldiers are likely to remain until an agreement to protect the Kabul Hamid Karzai International Airport, which is expected to be done by Turkey, is completed.

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