U.S. Leaves Largest Afghan Base as Full Withdrawal Nears

KABUL, Afghanistan—American troops and their Western allies have departed Bagram, Afghanistan’s largest air base, officers mentioned on Friday, turning over to the Afghan authorities the sprawling outpost from which the United States waged struggle for practically twenty years.

With little fanfare and no public ceremony, American troops left the bottom on Thursday evening, U.S. and Afghan officers mentioned.

The Afghan army “will protect the base and use it to combat terrorism,” mentioned Fawad Aman, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s Ministry of Defense.

The closure of Bagram, a logo of America’s pricey journey in Afghanistan, comes simply weeks earlier than the deliberate withdrawal of U.S. troops, who entered the nation within the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror assaults.

The U.S. will depart a contingent of 650 troops to guard the United States Embassy in Kabul, the capital.

The departure comes at a deadly time for Afghanistan.

Some U.S. intelligence estimates predict that the Afghan authorities may fall to its rivals, the Taliban, in as little as six months after the Americans full their withdrawal. The Taliban are inching nearer to Kabul after having taken a few quarter of the nation’s districts within the final two months.

Hundreds if not 1000’s of members of the Afghan safety forces have surrendered in latest weeks, whereas their counterattacks have taken again little territory from the Taliban. And as the Afghan forces fracture, regional militias have appeared with renewed prominence, in an echo of the 1990s civil struggle.

“Civil war is certainly a path that can be visualized,” the highest U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Austin S. Miller, advised reporters on Tuesday. Though the final 40 years of battle in Afghanistan might be seen as civil struggle, a return to the fractious period of warlords and armed fiefdoms has lengthy been feared.

With a line of snow-capped mountains as its backdrop, the Bagram airfield was constructed within the 1950s by the Soviet Union. It turned an important army hub throughout the Soviets’ 10-year occupation of Afghanistan. After the Soviets withdrew in 1989, the Taliban and what was identified as the Northern Alliance fought for the bottom, typically with their trenches at both finish.

By 2001, the United States had inherited rubble on the Bagram web site. In January 2002, when the primary American service member killed by enemy hearth, Sgt. 1st Class Nathan R. Chapman, was despatched dwelling, there have been no American flags to drape on his casket, so a flag patch from somebody’s uniform needed to suffice.

By 2011, on the peak of the American struggle, the bottom had ballooned right into a small metropolis, with two runaways, tens of 1000’s of occupants, retailers and a U.S. army jail that turned infamous for its use as a C.I.A. black web site.