Armored military vehicles withdrawn from a base in Kandahar – Reuters
The United States and NATO evacuated the Afghan Bagram air base, as part of the peace agreement signed with the Taliban. While the Taliban described the move as historic, Washington stressed that it would not abandon Afghanistan.
A senior US defense official said that “all American soldiers and members of NATO forces have left the base,” which is one of the largest military bases in Afghanistan.
The closure of the base, located 50 kilometers north of Kabul, ends the US military presence in the most important air base in Afghanistan, which was the center of US strategic operations in the country.
Over the years, the large base has received hundreds of thousands of US and NATO soldiers to launch air strikes against the Taliban and other groups in the 20-year Afghan war. The US military and NATO are in the final stages of withdrawing from Afghanistan, which is supposed to be completed before September 11.
US President Joe Biden said that the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan is moving forward, but it will not take place during the next few days. Biden, who was speaking to reporters at the White House, said he was confident Afghan leaders would be able to continue the government’s work but was concerned about domestic issues.
Al-Jazeera quoted a spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defense as saying that all US and foreign forces had left the air base, where the Americans had been stationed since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. The spokesman added that the Afghan forces would supervise Bagram base and use it in combating terrorism.
Al-Jazeera correspondent in Afghanistan, Nasser Shadeed, said that the US and Afghan defense ministers discussed in a telephone conversation the mechanism for handing over the base, noting that the US forces handed over all the military bases in the country, except for the military headquarters near the US embassy in the center of the capital, Kabul.
According to a US official, the evacuation of Bagram base and its handing over to Afghan forces is an indication that the complete withdrawal of US and other foreign forces from Afghanistan is imminent. This development comes after the completion of the withdrawal of German and Italian forces participating in the NATO mission.
The Taliban welcomes
The Taliban movement welcomed the US withdrawal from the Bagram base. The spokesman for the Taliban’s political office and a member of the movement’s delegation to the negotiations, Muhammad Naim, described this withdrawal as a historic step. Naim said in an interview with Al Jazeera that the presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan exacerbates the problems in the country, as he put it.
He added that there are ongoing negotiations with the government delegation in Doha, expressing his optimism that the issues in dispute between the two parties will be resolved.
In turn, Reuters quoted the movement’s spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, as saying that the withdrawal is in the interest of the US government, while the French Press Agency quoted the Taliban spokesman as saying that the complete withdrawal of US forces will pave the way for the Afghans to decide their future.
For his part, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said in a meeting with the commander of US forces in Afghanistan, General Scott Miller, that with the withdrawal of US forces, a new page was opened between his country and the United States.
CNN had quoted an official in the US administration that the withdrawal of its forces from Afghanistan may be completed within days, and US President Joe Biden had promised to implement the withdrawal before the next anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks. US sources say that Washington will keep about 650 troops from Afghanistan. A soldier to protect its embassy and Kabul airport.
Meanwhile, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said that the international community and the Afghan people will not accept any government that is installed by force, and that that government will not have legitimacy, and will not receive assistance from the international community. Price added, during a press conference, that the United States does not intend to abandon Afghanistan or retreat from its support for the Afghan government and people, stressing that Washington will continue to support the Afghan forces. He pointed out that the survival of US soldiers in Afghanistan is necessary to protect US diplomats.
For his part, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that the Taliban’s escalation of violence is a source of concern and an obstacle to reaching a comprehensive understanding. In a telephone conversation with his Afghan counterpart, Austin stressed his country’s continued support and training of Afghan forces, stressing the need to seize the opportunity of peace talks to achieve lasting peace in Afghanistan.
Turkey and Russia
In the midst of the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said that his country is continuing its communication with the United States regarding the operation of Kabul Airport, stressing the importance of continuing the airport’s work for Afghanistan. Akar said in a press statement made during his visit to Tajikistan that the final decision on protecting and securing Kabul Airport will be issued after a meeting chaired by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
In Moscow, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said yesterday that the Islamic State is massing its forces in northern Afghanistan with the withdrawal of US and NATO forces from the country, adding that this raises Moscow’s concern.
The Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that Moscow is not inclined to exaggerate the current attacks of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
on the ground, said an Afghan security source for the island killing of eight policemen and wounding five others in an attack by Taliban militants near the Faizabad city of Badakhshan state (northern Afghanistan). The German news agency also quoted Afghan sources as saying that 23 people, including members of the security forces and anti-Taliban militants, were killed in attacks launched by the movement in Badakhshan and Baghlan provinces in northern Afghanistan.
In the same context, accounts close to the Taliban circulated clips showing the surrender of dozens of Afghan government forces to the movement’s fighters during battles that took place Thursday in the Takab district of Kapisa province in northern Afghanistan. The movement said, through its Arabic account on Twitter, that the soldiers who surrendered their weapons had benefited from the amnesty granted by the movement to everyone who defected from the ranks of the regime.
The movement has recently intensified its attacks with the acceleration of the withdrawal of foreign forces, and was able to control several areas, especially in the north and west of the country.