For nearly 20 years the Bagram airfield in Afghanistan has been the epicentre of the American-led war against the Taliban.
But on Friday 2 July, US troops shut off the electricity, plunging the base into darkness, and slipped away before dawn. It would be another two hours before the new Afghan commander, General Mir Asadullah Kohistani, discovered they had left. Even before the Afghan army could take control of the airfield, looters had raided the barracks and storage tents – a fitting symbol of the US’s inglorious exit.
Vacating Bagram, which is about an hour’s drive north from the capital Kabul, was a milestone in the wider US withdrawal from the embattled country. In April this year, as part of his efforts to end America’s “forever wars” and focus on domestic issues, the US president, Joe Biden, announced that the country’s 3,500 troops would leave by 11 September 2021, the 20th anniversary of al-Qaeda’s attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. “We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our presence in Afghanistan hoping to create the ideal conditions for our withdrawal, expecting a different result,” he said at the time