Reflecting in puddle near Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan 230119 CREDIT US ARMY
Afghanistan

Afghanistan: US And NATO Forces Leave Bagram Air Base

US and NATO are withdrawing from Afghanistan, bringing home military personnel by a deadline of 11 September 2021.

Reflecting in puddle near Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan 230119 CREDIT US ARMY

All American and NATO troops have left Bagram, the biggest air base in Afghanistan.

Bagram Air Base served as the linchpin for US operations in the rugged country, where the long war against the Taliban and their Al-Qaeda allies was fought with air strikes and resupply missions from the airfield.

"All coalition forces are off Bagram," a US defence official told AFP.

He did not say when it will be officially handed over to Afghan forces.

"We still have not been informed of any official handover of the base to Afghan forces," a senior Afghan official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The US military and NATO are in the final stages of winding up involvement in Afghanistan, bringing home an unspecified number of remaining troops by a deadline of 11 September.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace confirmed there would also be a "drawdown" of UK troops, who since 2014 have been in the country in non-combat capacities, under Operation Toral, providing security and training.

Over the years, the Bagram Airfield has been visited by hundreds of thousands of American and NATO service members and contractors.

It has boasted swimming pools, cinemas and spas, as well as a boardwalk featuring well-known fast-food outlets.

US Air Force F-16 lands at Afghanistan's Bagram Airfield 290715 CREDIT US AIR FORCE
An American F-16 gets ready to land at Bagram Air Base (file photo) (Picture: US Air Force).

The base also hosted a prison that held thousands of Taliban and jihadist inmates.

Bagram was built by the US for its Afghan ally during the Cold War in the 1950s as a bulwark against the Soviet Union in the north.

Ironically, it became the staging point for the Soviet invasion of the country in 1979, and the Red Army expanded it significantly during their near decade-long occupation.

When Moscow pulled out, it became central to the raging civil war - it was reported that at one point the Taliban controlled one end of the two-mile runway and the opposition Northern Alliance the other.

In recent months, Bagram has come under rocket barrages claimed by the jihadist so-called Islamic State, stirring fears that militants are already eyeing the base for future attacks.

The NATO-led non-combat mission aimed to train Afghan forces into ensuring their country's security after the departure of foreign forces.

As of February 2021, there were about 9,500 foreign troops in Afghanistan, of which the US made up the largest contingent with 2,500.

So far Germany and Italy have both confirmed the full withdrawal of their troops from the country.

Cover image: Library image of Bagram Air Base (Picture: US Army).