Conflicts & War

Fear engulfs bewildered Afghans after sudden Bagram withdrawal

By Baber Khan Sahel

Bagram, Afghanistan, July 5 (EFE).- The departure of American forces from the Bagram military base has left the Afghans with a deep sense of insecurity and bewilderment.

The last group of the United States and NATO forces left the airfield after Friday midnight without any prior announcement.

Located about 70 km (43 miles) from north of Kabul, the camp served as a nerve center in the two decades of war against Taliban and Al Qaeda groups.

“We (learned) about it around 6 am because they did not inform about the departure (of their last troops),” an Afghan security official at the military camp told EFE.

He said the American forces could have informed their Afghan counterparts to prevent the locals from ransacking the military facility.

When the Afghan forces entered the base, locals had already stormed it and tried to bring the camp walls down to drive away military vehicles parked inside, he said.

“We arrested around 70 of them,” the official said, apparently angry with the US military for not coordinating the withdrawal with the Afghan forces.

Foreign coalition forces began withdrawing their troops from Afghanistan on May 1 after nearly 20 years of war.

The process will culminate by Sep.11 to symbolically mark the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks against the US by Al Qaeda.

Before the evacuation of the Bagram base, Italian and German troops in Herat and Balkh provinces also left their camps in the dark without announcing.

For many, the sudden withdrawal signaled the apathy of the coalition forces about the security of the Afghans.

“They invaded Afghanistan without the consent of the Afghans and now they left without coordinating with our security forces,” Ibrahim, a 28-year-old shopkeeper, told EFE.

The man, who sells scraps of military equipment near the base, said the departure was the manifestation of their “apathetic and indifferent” attitude toward Afghanistan.

Bagram earlier basked in the glow of floodlights with villages in the neighborhood brightening up like a day in the dark.

“The area looks like a cemetery now,” Ibrahim lamented.

The military center still houses a controversial jail with hundreds of Taliban fighters detained for years.

The camp once stationed about 100,000 US and coalition forces during the peak of the so-called “war on terror” to launch airstrikes against the Taliban and other militant groups during the years of war in the rugged country.

Taliban fighters launched many attacks to hit the base, but it remained the safest center for the foreign forces.

That no longer may be the case.

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