WASHINGTON – US military troops have left Bagram Airfield and turned the base over to Afghan security forces, ending the US combat role after nearly 20 years of war.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby confirmed the transfer on Friday and said US troops remaining in Afghanistan would focus on protecting US diplomats, securing Kabul international airport, advising Afghan forces and support for counterterrorism efforts.
At the White House, spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the full U.S. withdrawal would not be complete until the end of August, although a senior U.S. official said it would be largely completed by the end of August. The 4th of July. No less than 650 American soldiers will remain in Afghanistan indefinitely. to protect the American embassy in Kabul.
The US departure from Bagram – who served as the hub for the US-led war against al-Qaida and the Taliban for nearly two decades – comes even as some US officials warn that a reborn Taliban could soon overthrow the Afghan government.
Most European troops have withdrawn from Afghanistan in recent days, quietly withdrawing months before the official end of the US-led mission – amid a near failure of the threatening ‘eternal war’. to leave the country on the brink of civil war.
NATO agreed to withdraw some 7,000 forces from Afghanistan in April, after President Joe Biden announced his decision withdraw all US troops from the country by September 11 – the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that sparked America’s longest war.
Biden’s national security advisers stressed that the United States will continue to support Afghanistan with humanitarian and economic assistance.
“We will stay with you,” Biden said in a June 25 meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and other officials. Ghani said Biden’s decision to step down would mark a “new chapter” in US relations with Afghanistan.
But the security situation in Afghanistan has grown increasingly dire, as Taliban fighters rout Afghan forces in districts across the country. The commander of the US-led mission in Afghanistan, General Austin Miller, recently offered a stern public assessment of the future of Afghanistan.
“Civil war is certainly a path that can be visualized if it continues on the course it is on,” Miller told reporters at a June 29 press conference in Afghanistan. “It should be of concern to the world.”
Republicans in Congress echoed these concerns and warned that the US withdrawal could jeopardize hard-earned gains in the fight against al-Qaida.
In his remarks to reporters on Friday, Biden said he believed the Afghan government could hold its own and noted that the United States would continue to provide support to Afghan forces from American bases outside the country.
“We have developed a capability beyond the horizon,” the president said, although it is still unclear how the United States will execute this.
During the White House briefing on Friday, Psaki noted that the US withdrawal from Afghanistan was triggered by former President Donald Trump. As part of an agreement brokered by Trump’s advisers with the Taliban, the United States agreed to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan and the Taliban have vowed to sever ties with al-Qaida and end their attacks. against American forces.
Biden announced the September 11 deadline earlier this year, arguing that the United States had achieved its goal of routing al-Qaida and that it was “time for American troops to return home.”
At the height of the war, the military strength of the United States and NATO exceeded 150,000. costs more than $ 2 trillion, according to a Brown University analysis released in April. More than 2,400 US servicemen have been killed, along with dozens of Allied soldiers, aid workers, journalists and tens of thousands of civilians.
Psaki said last week that Biden’s decision to withdraw his troops from Afghanistan “is consistent with his views on the war over the past 20 years.” But she also noted that the Taliban had threatened to renew their attacks on American forces if the United States did not honor the Trump administration’s agreement.
“It was not something, as Commander-in-Chief, that he found acceptable,” she said.
Contribution: Tom Vanden Brook, Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: The US army leaves Bagram airfield, total withdrawal from Afghanistan near