The US evacuated the Afghan airstrip at night and did not inform the new commander.

BAGRAM, Afghanistan (AP) — According to Afghan military officials, the US abandoned Afghanistan’s Bagram Airfield after nearly 20 years by turning out the lights and slipping away in the night without informing the base’s new Afghan commander, who discovered the Americans’ departure more than two hours after they left.

The enormous air base was shown off by Afghanistan’s army on Monday, allowing a rare first look at what had been the epicentre of America’s struggle to depose the Taliban and track down al-9/11 Qaida’s hijackers.

The US declared on Friday that it has totally departed its largest airport in the country, ahead of a final pullout scheduled for the end of August, according to the Pentagon.

“We (heard) some rumor that the Americans had left Bagram … and finally by seven o’clock in the morning, we understood that it was confirmed that they had already left Bagram,” Gen. Mir Asadullah Kohistani, Bagram’s new commander said.

Col. Sonny Leggett, a spokesman for the US military, did not respond to the particular grievances of numerous Afghan soldiers who inherited the abandoned airfield, instead referring to a statement released last week.

According to the statement, the turnover of the several bases began shortly after President Joe Biden announced in mid-April that America was removing the last of its forces. Leggett stated in the statement that their withdrawals had been coordinated with Afghan leaders.

According to Afghan military officials, before the Afghan army could seize control of the airfield, which is roughly an hour’s drive from Kabul, it was besieged by a tiny army of looters who destroyed barrack after barrack and rummaged through enormous storage tents before being expelled.

“At first we thought maybe they were Taliban,” said Abdul Raouf, a soldier of 10 years. He said the the U.S. called from the Kabul airport and said “we are here at the airport in Kabul.”

Despite a spate of Taliban victories on the battlefield, Kohistani claimed that the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces could hold on to the well guarded stronghold. A prison with roughly 5,000 inmates, many of whom are supposedly Taliban, is also located on the airfield.

The Taliban’s current offensive comes as the final American and NATO troops leave Afghanistan. Most NATO troops had quietly withdrawn by the end of last week. The last U.S. soldiers are likely to remain until an agreement to protect the Kabul Hamid Karzai International Airport, which is expected to be done by Turkey, is completed.

Meanwhile, the Taliban have taken over district after district in northern Afghanistan. Hundreds of Afghan soldiers have fled across the border into Tajikistan in the previous two days rather than battle the rebels.

“In battle it is sometimes one step forward and some steps back,” said Kohistani.

The Afghan military, according to Kohistani, is shifting its approach to focus on critical regions. He stated that they would retake them in the next days but did not specify how they would do it.

On Monday, a gigantic facility the size of a small city that had been used solely by the US and NATO was on show. The scale is incredible, with roads winding through barracks and past hangar-like structures. Because of the blast walls that protect each aircraft, there are two runways and over 100 parking locations for fighter jets known as revetments.One of the two runways, which was built in 2006, is 12,000 feet (3,660 metres) long. A passenger lounge, a 50-bed hospital, and massive hangar-size tents packed with items like furniture are also available.

According to Kohistani, the US left behind 3.5 million goods, all of which were enumerated by departing US military personnel. Thousands of bottles of water, energy drinks, and military ready-to-eat meals are among them known as MRE’s.

“When you say 3.5 million items, it is every small items, like every phone, every door knob, every window in every barracks, every door in every barracks,” he said.

Thousands of civilian automobiles, many of which were left without keys, as well as hundreds of armoured vehicles, were among the big ticket goods left behind. According to Kohistani, the US also left small arms and ammo behind, but the departing troops took heavy weaponry with them. Ammunition for Afghan military weapons that were not left behind was blown up before they left.

Afghan soldiers toured the facility Monday, which formerly housed up to 100,000 US troops, and were harshly critical of how the US left Bagram, leaving in the middle of the night without informing the Afghan forces tasked with patrolling the perimeter.

“In one night, they lost all the goodwill of 20 years by leaving the way they did, in the night, without telling the Afghan soldiers who were outside patrolling the area,” said Afghan soldier Naematullah, who asked that only his one name be used.

The electricity was turned off and the base was plunged into darkness within 20 minutes after the US’s silent departure on Friday, according to Raouf, a 10-year soldier who has also served in Taliban strongholds in Helmand and Kandahar provinces.

He claimed that the unexpected darkness served as a warning to the looters. They smashed past the initial barrier from the north, ransacking buildings and putting anything that wasn’t nailed down into trucks.

Afghan soldiers were still gathering debris on Monday, three days after the Americans withdrew, including empty water bottles, cans, and empty energy drinks left behind by the looters.

Meanwhile, Kohistani stated that while the US and NATO’s nearly two decades of commitment in Afghanistan had been appreciated, it was now time for Afghans to step up.

“We have to solve our problem. We have to secure our country and once again build our country with our own hands,” he said.

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