Taliban Reacts to Afghanistan's Bagram Air Base Exit by U.S. Troops

The Taliban has welcomed the evacuation of U.S. forces from Bagram and says the move will bring Afghanistan "closer to peace and security."

The United States have withdrawn all troops from its biggest air base in Afghanistan, a U.S. defense official told AFP on Friday, hinting that the complete withdrawal of all foreign forces from the country was imminent after two decades of war. NATO has also withdrawn all of its forces from the base.

In a tweet on Friday, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said: "We consider evacuation of all US forces from #Bagram a positive step & seek withdrawal of foreign forces from all parts of the country. Such is in the interest of both them & Afghans. Afghans can move closer to peace & security with complete withdrawal of foreign forces."

Newsweek has contacted the Taliban for further comment on their plans for the strategic region, which was the main hub for U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, from where the long-time war against the Taliban and their allies Al-Qaeda was fought with air strikes. Newsweek has also contacted the Pentagon.

The airfield was handed over to the Afghan National Security and Defense Force in its entirety, two US officials told the Associated Press on Friday.

The longest war in U.S. history is set to end way before the deadline President Joe Biden set of September 11, on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 bombings in New York City. The attack, which was co-ordinated by Al -Qaeda, killed 2,996 people after two planes flew into the twin towers in Manhattan, one plane flew into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and the other crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

However, the troop withdrawal does not include forces that protect diplomats at the embassy who might be called on to secure Kabul airport. Reuters reported on June 29 that the U.S. embassy there could retain a presence of around 650 troops.

Last month, Biden told Afghan President Ashraf Ghani that Afghans were going to have to decide on their future.

The withdrawal of foreign forces has not quelled the fighting between militants and Afghan government forces. Insurgents had made advances in several places, including in the north, where they previously had little presence. Fighting was intensifying between Ghani's forces and the Taliban in the northeastern province of Badakshan, officials said Friday.

Ghani said his job was now to "manage the consequences" of the withdrawal, which was agreed under the administration of President Donald Trump.

Germany also announced the end of its deployment in a statement that on Tuesday, shortly after its troops left Afghanistan.

Italian soldiers also returned home, with the country's Defense Minister Lorenzo Guerini paying tribute to his 53 countrymen who died over the past two decades.

Afghan soldiers in Bagram
Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers stand guard at a road checkpoint near the a US military base in Bagram, some 30 miles north of Kabul on July 1, 2021. The United States, as well as Nato, have withdrawn all troops from Bagram, the biggest allied air base in Afghanistan. Wakir Kohsar/Getty