As US forces leave Afghan Bagram air base after 20 years, criticism abounds – World Peace Organization

On July 2, US military forces officially left the Afghan air base at Bagram, located 30 miles north of Kabul. Control was transferred to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces in a third ceremony, ending 20 consecutive years of occupation by the United States. This withdrawal of US troops, as well as those of NATO allies, is the clearest sign of the end of international engagement in Afghanistan, with responsibility for the Afghan counterinsurgency being transferred to the Afghan military. However, the US withdrawal is already being criticized as the Taliban take control of key districts in northern Afghanistan.

In Washington, DC, US President Joe Biden said after 20 years of support he expects Afghan government and military leaders to face increasing Taliban attacks. He said “[T]they have the capacity to support the government ”, and that more negotiations are needed. He said he was also “concerned that they are dealing with internal issues.” Afghan General Mir Asadullah Kohistani, new to Bagram Airfield, agreed with Joe Biden, saying: “[W]We need to solve our problem.

Afghan military officials criticized the US withdrawal from the region, accusing them of not communicating properly. On July 5, officials announced Bagram’s departure without notifying Kohistani, who only found out two hours after the Americans left. Before the Afghan army could take control of the airfield, a group of looters managed to gain access, search the storage tents and ransack the barracks. Afghan soldiers who spoke to The Associated Press revealed their disappointment – Naematullah, a soldier who requested that only one name be used, told reporters: “[I]n one night, they lost all the goodwill of 20 years by leaving as they did, in the night, without telling the Afghan soldiers who were patrolling outside in the area.

Afghan civilians have mixed views on the withdrawal. Malek Mir, a mechanic in Bagram who saw Soviet and then American forces coming and going, said he was deeply saddened by the lack of a foreign presence. “[T]they came to bomb the Taliban and got rid of their regime. Since they left “when the Taliban were so powerful … they will take over soon.” Fears of Taliban control are reiterated by traders in Kabul. One of them pointed out that many people are worried about a Taliban takeover in the absence of foreign forces, asking “[T]so what are we going to do? However, not all civilians think withdrawal is bad. A store owner in Bagram, Sayed Naqibullah pointed to US failures to “contain the Taliban or corruption”. Some Afghans have become rich, but many live in extreme poverty. As a result, he concluded “we are happy that they are gone”.

More than 3,500 foreign soldiers have been killed in a two-decade war, which has claimed the lives of more than 100,000 civilians since 2009, according to United Nations records. While the withdrawal of US (and NATO) forces appears to mark the end of the international conflict, it looks like the civil war in Afghanistan will rage for some time. Currently, the Taliban contain about a third of the 421 districts and district centers in Afghanistan, with recent conflict in Kandahar province in the north and south of the country, the birthplace of the Taliban. The group appears to be making rapid progress across the country, raising fears it could regain political control of large swathes of the country 20 years after it was initially ousted from power.

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