In late April, President Biden announced it was time "to end the forever war" in Afghanistan, saying the US has accomplished its mission. We noted in May that US troops were expected to be out of the Middle Eastern country by early to mid-July, well before the Sept. 11 deadline set by Biden. New developments on Friday indicate that all US forces have been removed from a major airbase.
"All American soldiers and members of NATO forces have left the Bagram airbase," a senior US security official on condition of anonymity told Reuters.
Two decades since US troops landed at Bagram, the base was a major command and logistical base for the entire operation in Afghanistan. The base is located about an hour and 20-minute drive north of Kabul.
In the coming days, additional troops stationed in Kabul will be withdrawn. The departure marks the longest American war in history, and the costs include 2,312 American lives and a $2.26 trillion bill to US taxpayers.
The US officially handed over Bagram to the Afghan military on Friday, Rohullah Ahamadzai, spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defense, told CNN.
A Taliban spokesman praised the US for removing its forces from the base and said this is a "positive step."
"The presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan was a reason for continuation of fighting in the country," Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mojahid told CNN Friday. "If foreign forces leave Afghanistan, Afghans can decide future issues among themselves. We will step forward for the security of the country and our hope for the peace would increase and inshallah we will have development."
For years the base was also home to a secret CIA black site detention center for terrorist suspects that former President Obama acknowledged.
The top U.S.commander in Afghanistan, defense official General Austin Miller, said the US "still retains all the capabilities and authorities to protect the forces" stationed in Kabul.
Fox News reports 650 US troops will remain in Afghanistan indefinitely, based mainly at the US embassy. There's a possibility that 300 troops may stay at the base in Kabul for additional security measures.
From now on, if the US wants to launch military operations, such as reconnaissance or air-support, it must do it through Qatar and or other Middle Eastern Allies, all of which diminish the reaction response time.