The United States has left its main military base in Afghanistan, part of an accelerated retreat that has led to a resurgent Taliban gaining territory and worrying that the country could fall into chaos.
The Afghan army is ready to retake Bagram Airfield, the vast U.S. base that was once the center of command at the national level and a widespread symbol of the country’s “forever war”. The closure of the base, announced Friday, means most U.S. troops have left the country.
About 600 troops will stop to protect the U.S. diplomatic mission, shifting Washington’s role to providing financial and logistical support to Afghanistan from outside the country.
The Pentagon is expected to meet its full September 11 return date, two decades after U.S. President George W Bush vowed to defeat the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
Most European countries have already withdrawn their troops, with Germany, Italy and Poland announcing last week that their troops were returning home.
The U.S. military exit comes when the security situation has worsened in the country and the Taliban have launched waves of offensives, against Afghan forces and civilians.
Peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government that began in September have not led to a political agreement or a ceasefire.
General Austin S Miller, the U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, warned that the country could fall into a civil war at a rare press conference last week.
Eighty of Afghanistan’s about 400 districts have fallen under Taliban control since May, said Mir Haider Afzaly, a parliamentarian and chairman of the Afghan parliament’s defense commission.
“Violence and battle have intensified in recent months,” he said. “We need the support of foreign troops especially in the field of aviation and intelligence.”
US President Joe Biden has vowed to support Afghanistan after meeting President Ashraf Ghani at the White House last month.
Ghani has requested $ 3.3 billion in security assistance and 3m doses of Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine. The country has been hit by an influx of infections from the Delta variant.
“The biggest practical measure of U.S. support will be financial – pay the entire balance of the armed forces and continue to do so for the foreseeable future,” said Andrew Watkins, senior analyst at International Crisis Group, a nonprofit organization. profit. organization.
“But his support is also political and psychological; the morale of the Afghan forces depends on sentiment such as their Air Force, their supply lines, their salaries are all reliably maintained by that support of the United States ”.
In late June, the U.S. Central Command handed over six structures to the Afghan Ministry of Defense and shipped the equivalent 800 C-17 loads of material out of the country.