Kohistani insists his troops can hold the base from Taliban
The US departed from the Bagram airfield in Af-ghanistan quietly at night without notifying the new commander, who discovered the exit two hours after the US left, say Afghan military officials. “We did not know of their timeline for departure. They did not tell us when they left.”
The United States Department of Defence an-nounced Friday that they had completely vacated their biggest airfield in Bagram before a complete withdrawal scheduled for August this year.
This airfield in Bagram was the American epicentre in the fight against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. The airfield faced a blackout 20 minutes after the American troops departed, ABC News reported.
This allowed looters to ransack the buildings, taking anything up for grabs.
Just 50 kilometres from Kabul, the base is key to the security of the capital while also providing strategic cover to much of the country’s rugged north where the Taliban have focused their recent offensives.
Gen. Mir Asadullah Kohistani, Bagram’s new com-mander, insists his troops can hold the base from the Taliban, and that he has “quite enough” soldiers.
Though, with roughly 3,000 troops under his com-mand, the figure is a tiny percentage of the number of American and allied forces during its US-led heyday.
For American troops, morale was kept up in the then-buzzing mini-city with swimming pools, cine-mas, spas and fast food outlets of Burger King and Pizza Hut.
For Kohistani’s men, the entertainment venues are closed, the warehouses are locked and the shuttered dining facilities offer only the stench of rotten food from boxes of expired meal packs.
In a more concrete sign of the Afghan military’s ability to fight without American backing, 1,000 troops fighting the Taliban in the country’s north fled into neighbouring Tajikistan on Monday.
At Bagram, Kohistani said he was already receiving reports that the Taliban were making “movements in rural areas” surrounding the area.
One soldier, a private named Rafiullah, offered a clear picture of what he expecte d would come.
“The enemy are determined and will definitely try to attack here,” Rafiullah said as behind him two Afghan military helicopters took off. “But we will not give them the chance.”
If or when the Taliban do mount an offensive to take Bagram, one of their top priorities will un-doubtedly be a huge prison that holds up to 5,000 Taliban inmates.
“We haven’t come here to sleep. Everybody here is prepared to secure Bagram. Our morale is high,” insisted Rafiullah.
America’s departure 20 years later without inform-ing the Afghan officials has left many Afghan sol-diers with a sense of abandonment. The U.S military spokesmen did not comment on the hasty and quiet leave from the Bagram airfield.
Afghan military allowed a glimpse into the airbase on Monday for the first time. The facility, the size of a small city, consisted of roadways weaving through barracks and hangar-like buildings.
The base has two runways and over 100 parking spots for fighter jets with blast walls to protect the air-craft.
The facility also includes a passenger lounge, a 50-bed hospital, and a giant hangar filled with supplies.
The U.S left behind 3.5 million items which include tens of thousands of water bottles, energy drinks, and military-ready meals (MREs), all itemized by the U.S military. The airbase also includes a prison with 5,000 inmates, many of them allegedly Tali-ban.
Some of the more advanced items include thousands of civilian vehicles without keys and hundreds of armored vehicles.
American troops took heavy weapons with them and blew up the ammunition before they left.
Kohistani says the 20 years of NATO and the US in Afghanistan are appreciated, but that it is now time for the Afghans to step up. “We have to solve our problem,” the new Afghan commander of Bagram said.
“We have to secure our country and once again build our country with our own hands.”—Agencies