Afghan soldiers guard the gate of the U.S. Bagram Air Force Base on the day the last American troops evacuated it, Parwan province, Afghanistan, July 2, 2021.
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WASHINGTON – The US military quietly left Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan on Friday, a historic milestone following President Joe Biden’s order to withdraw US troops from the war-weary country.
Two US officials told NBC News, on condition of anonymity as the decision has not yet been officially announced, that the US had turned the once unshakable air base over to the Afghan National Security and Defense Force.
In 2012, at its peak, Bagram looked through more than 100,000 U.S. soldiers. It was the largest US military facility in Afghanistan.
In April, Biden announced the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan by September 11 of this year, effectively ending the longest war in the US.
“Look, we were in this war for 20 years, 20 years,” Biden told reporters on Friday when asked about the withdrawal in Afghanistan.
“I think, you [Afghan leaders] have the ability to support the government. I suspect there needs to be more negotiations in the future, “said Biden, adding,” Afghans need to be able to do it themselves. “
United States President Joe Biden speaks about the June job report in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House in Washington, DC on July 2, 2021.
Almond Ngan | AFP | Getty Images
In April, the White House confirmed that US forces had begun the withdrawal process from Afghanistan and the Pentagon had been proactively deploying additional troops and military equipment to protect the armed forces in the area.
“Potential opponents should know that we are defending ourselves if they attack us as we retreat. [and] our partners, with all means at our disposal, “White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters who traveled with Air Force One in April.
“Although these measures will initially lead to an increase in troop numbers, we remain committed to evicting all US military personnel from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021,” she said, adding that the Biden administration has a “safe and responsible” I intend to leave the war-torn country.
The removal of approximately 3,000 US soldiers coincides with the 20th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks that spurred America’s entry into protracted wars in the Middle East and Central Asia.
The Afghan district administrator of Bagram told The Associated Press that the US exit was overnight and without consultation with local officials. As a result, dozens of looters stormed through the unprotected gates.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid called the departure from Bagram on Friday “a positive step” and told NBC News that the Taliban “for the time being” have no plans to occupy the sprawling air base, which is about 60 kilometers north of Kabul.
U.S. Army soldiers and contractors load highly mobile multi-purpose wheeled vehicles, HUMVs, that are sent for transportation as U.S. forces prepare to withdraw on July 13, 2020 in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
US Army | via Reuters
American forces overthrew the Taliban in 2001 after the group sheltered Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders who carried out the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Two years later, US troops invaded Iraq to defeat then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. to eliminate .
Twenty years later, America’s longest war has killed around 2,300 US soldiers and wounded thousands more. It is estimated that more than 100,000 Afghans have been killed or wounded since the conflict began.