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Afghans kept ‘in the dark’ about US Bagram exit

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KABUL: The US military had left Afghan officials in the dark before it vacated Bagram airbase in the night, its biggest base in Afghanistan, Bagram base’s new commander said.

General Asadullah Kohistani said on Monday that the Afghan military discovered hours later after US military left Bagram early on Friday morning.

This is as the Taliban are reportedly planning to attack Bagram and Afghan forces are expecting it on tenterhooks.

Bagram has also a prison under command of Afghan military, which reportedly has over 5,000 Taliban prisoners.

Speaking to reporters at the airbase, General Kohistani said he was already receiving reports the group was making movements in rural areas nearby.

According to the Associated Press, the Americans left behind about 3.5 million items, Gen Kohistani said, including tens of thousands of bottles of water, energy drinks and military ready-made meals, known as MREs. They also left behind thousands of civilian vehicles, without keys, and hundreds of armoured vehicles.

They took heavy weapons with them and detonated some ammunition stocks, but left behind small weapons and ammunition for the Afghans, Gen Kohistani said.

The US announced on Friday that it had vacated Bagram, effectively completing its military campaign in Afghanistan ahead of the official end date of 11 September, announced by President Joe Biden earlier this year.

Within 20 minutes of the US’s departure on Friday night the electricity was shut down and the base was plunged into darkness, the AP reported – a signal to looters who smashed through barriers and ransacked the abandoned buildings. Leftover items from the base have ended up in nearby scrap yards and second hand shops.

At its height, Bagram base was home to tens of thousands of troops. It ballooned from a basic Afghan air base to a mini-city with swimming pools, cinemas, spas and imported fast food outlets Burger King and Pizza Hut.

The base has shifted hands over the years. It was first built by the Americans, for Afghanistan, back in the 1950s, before falling into Soviet control when the Red Army invaded in 1979.

The late-night withdrawal by the US hands control of the base to a much less well-equipped force that could struggle to defend it from the Taliban, which has made swift advances in recent weeks across the country, seizing rural districts and surrounding some larger cities.

Gen Kohistani has roughly 3,000 troops under his command – significantly less than the tens of thousands of US and allied soldiers that once occupied Bagram airbase.

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