- Soviet-built air strip turned huge U.S. base
- U.S. to go away behind solely an embassy safety drive
- Taliban sweeping into districts as overseas troops go dwelling
- Efficient finish to conflict launched after Sept. 11 assaults
KABUL, July 2 (Reuters) – American troops pulled out of their foremost army base in Afghanistan on Friday, abandoning a chunk of the World Commerce Middle they buried 20 years in the past in a rustic that might descend into civil conflict with out them.
The quiet departure from Bagram Air Base introduced an efficient finish to the longest conflict in U.S. historical past. It got here because the Taliban insurgency ramps up its offensive all through the nation after peace talks sputtered.
The Pentagon stated the turnover of Bagram to Afghan safety forces was a “key milestone” within the withdrawal, however insisted the U.S. army nonetheless has the authority to guard Afghan forces.
“These authorities nonetheless exist,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby advised reporters. He didn’t give a timeline for once they would possibly finish.
President Joe Biden stated the troops’ departure is on monitor, however some American forces will nonetheless be in Afghanistan in September as a part of a “rational drawdown with allies.” read more
He known as repeated queries from reporters in regards to the withdrawal timeline “detrimental” on Friday, forward of the July 4 U.S. Independence Day vacation weekend. “I wish to speak about glad issues, man,” Biden stated. “It is the vacation weekend. I’ll rejoice it. There’s nice issues occurring.”
Bagram, an hour’s drive north of Kabul, was the place the U.S. army coordinated its air conflict and logistical assist for its complete Afghan mission. The Taliban thanked them for leaving.
“We think about this withdrawal a constructive step. Afghans can get nearer to stability and peace with the total withdrawal of overseas forces,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid stated.
Different Afghans have been extra circumspect. “The Individuals should depart Afghanistan and there ought to be peace on this nation,” stated Kabul resident Javed Arman.
However he added: “We’re in a tough state of affairs. Most individuals have fled their districts and a few districts have fallen. Seven districts in Paktia province have fallen and are actually beneath Taliban management.”
Greater than 3,500 worldwide troops have been killed in Afghanistan. A Western diplomat in Kabul stated Washington and its NATO allies had “received many battles, however have misplaced the Afghan conflict.”
It was at Bagram, on a plain hemmed in by the snow-capped peaks of the Hindu Kush, that New York Metropolis firefighters and police buried a chunk of the World Commerce Middle in December 2001, days after the Taliban have been toppled for harboring Osama bin Laden.
It was additionally right here that the CIA ran a “black website” detention middle the place terrorism suspects have been subjected to abuse that President Barack Obama subsequently acknowledged as torture.
The bottom later swelled right into a sprawling fortified metropolis for an enormous worldwide army drive, with quick meals eating places, gyms and a restaurant serving one thing known as “the mom of all coffees.” Two runways perpetually roared. Presidents flew in and gave speeches; celebrities got here and advised jokes.
An Afghan official stated the bottom can be formally handed over at a ceremony on Saturday.
U.S. officers have advised Reuters that the overwhelming majority of troops have left Afghanistan, forward of the timetable set by Biden, who had promised they might be dwelling by Sept. 11, the twentieth anniversary of the assault that introduced them to Afghanistan.
Common Austin Miller, at present the highest U.S. commander in Afghanistan, will depart the nation within the coming days, handing over to Common Kenneth McKenzie, who heads U.S. Central Command, the Pentagon stated.
Biden stated he thinks the federal government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, with whom he held talks on the White Home final week, has the capability to resist current Taliban advances. However he stated Ghani’s authorities ought to cope with “inside points,” an obvious reference to infighting amongst rival factions.
Washington agreed to withdraw in a deal negotiated final 12 months beneath Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump. Biden rejected recommendation from generals to hold on till a political settlement could possibly be reached between the insurgents and Ghani’s U.S.-backed authorities.
Biden advised Ghani in Washington final week the Afghans should determine their very own future. Ghani stated his job was now to “handle the implications” of the U.S. withdrawal.
In trade for the U.S. departure, the Taliban promised to not permit worldwide terrorists to function from Afghan soil. They dedicated to barter with the Afghan authorities, however talks within the Qatari capital Doha made little progress.
The U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan this week stated Washington was firmly dedicated to helping Afghanistan and would offer safety help of $3 billion in 2022.
The Taliban refuse to declare a ceasefire. Afghan troopers have been surrendering or abandoning their posts. Militia teams that fought towards the Taliban earlier than the Individuals arrived are taking on arms once more.
Three officers with information of the discussions stated the US has requested three Central Asian nations – Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – to supply a short lived dwelling to about 10,000 Afghans who labored with both U.S. or allied forces. read more
A number of European nations have been additionally offering refuge to a whole lot of Afghan staff and their households as they confronted a direct menace from the Taliban.
Since Biden’s announcement that he would press forward with Trump’s withdrawal plan, insurgents have superior throughout Afghanistan, notably within the north, the place for years after their ouster they’d a minimal presence.
Reporting by Afghanistan bureau and Idrees Ali and Jonathan Landay in Washington; Writing by Peter Graff and Patricia Zengerle, Enhancing by William Maclean, Timothy Heritage and Daniel Wallis
Our Requirements: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.