How the U.S. Quietly Abandoned Its Top Afghan Airbase at Night Without Informing Local Commanders

As part of its rapid withdrawal from Afghanistan, and amid increasing territorial gains by Taliban forces on the ground, the U.S. Military made a very sudden nighttime departure from its leading airbase in Afghanistan - Bagram Airfield. 

The base was central to American and Western logistics efforts in the country for almost two decades and was better known to the public for featuring prominently in films such as ‘Iron Man’ (2008) that were set in Afghanistan. 

The last Americans left unannounced on July 2, with Afghan forces also stationed at the facility not being informed. U.S. personnel cut power and running water before leaving, which came as a shock to Afghan forces and created chaos that allowed looters to break in. 

As one Afghan soldier, identified as Sergeant Ehsanullah, recalled, “it just went dark.” This was particularly dangerous as the base hosted a prison for approximately 5,000 Taliban and Islamic State fighters, who may well have escaped in the confusion. 

The Afghan general in charge of Bagram, Mir Asadullah Kohistani, reported regarding the sudden withdrawal: “We (heard) some rumor that the Americans had left Bagram…

 Finally, by seven o'clock in the morning, we understood that it was confirmed that they had already left Bagram. 

"In one night, they [the Americans] lost all the goodwill of 20 years by leaving the way they did, in the night, without telling the Afghan soldiers who were outside patrolling the area,” 

an Afghan soldier interviewed by the Wall Street Journal reported regarding the incident. The fate of Afghanistan after the U.S. withdrawal remains uncertain, with the Taliban already very fast gaining ground and expected by some analysts to capture Kabul within 12 months. Its rule, however, is expected to be challenged by the Islamic State terror group. 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reported regarding IS’ growing power:

 “We are worried about this because IS [the Islamic State] is actively acquiring territories – mostly in Northern Afghanistan, right on the borders of countries that are our allies, amid the irresponsible behavior of some officials in Kabul and amid the hasty withdrawal of NATO, who is unable to report the achievement of at least some goals,.” China notably criticized the  U.S.’ “hasty withdrawal” for having “dealt a serious blow to the peace process” and “negatively affected regional stability,” while neighboring Tajikistan has been forced to call up reservists to guard the Afghan border and large numbers of Afghan forces continue to seek safe haven in the country - and as Taliban forces take over a growing number of border crossings. 

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