U.S. military forces reportedly left Bagram Airfield, the focal point for the war on terror in Afghanistan following the Sept. 11 attacks, after occupying the strategic position for close to 20 years.
The Afghan National Security and Defense Force will reportedly take over the airfield following a meeting between Gen. Austin Miller, the top U.S. commander in the region, and Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani, according to two U.S. officials who spoke anonymously.
The United States is set to shell out over $4 billion annually to fund Afghan forces, and Miller "still retains all the capabilities and authorities to protect the forces" that remain in the Middle Eastern country," an official said.
Darwaish Raufi, the Afghan district administrator for Bagram, said looters stormed the airfield after what he described as an abrupt overnight departure of U.S. troops "without any coordination" from his forces.
"They were stopped, and some have been arrested, and the rest have been cleared from the base," Raufi said.
"Unfortunately, the Americans left without any coordination with Bagram district officials or the governor's office," he added. "Right now, our Afghan security forces are in control both inside and outside of the base."
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid called the decision to vacate the airfield a "positive step" toward a full withdrawal of U.S. forces in the region after former President Donald Trump brokered a deal with the organization toward the end of his administration.
In April, President Joe Biden said he would withdraw the remaining 2,500 troops and an estimated 1,000 special forces operators from Afghanistan by Sept. 11. European allies have quietly withdrawn a majority of their forces in conjunction with the U.S. decision to leave the airfield.
At the time of his announcement, Biden said terrorist threats have "become more dispersed, metastasizing around the globe" in Syria, Iraq, Africa, and Asia, adding that it "makes little sense" to focus troops in Afghanistan when threats are present elsewhere.
"With the terror threat now in many places, keeping thousands of troops grounded and concentrated in just one country at a cost of billions each year makes little sense to me and to our leaders," Biden said. "We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan, hoping to create ideal conditions for the withdrawal, and expecting a different result."
More than 2,600 Americans have died in Afghanistan since the start of the conflict after al Qaeda flew hijacked planes into the twin towers in New York City and the Pentagon.
Original Location: US troops leave Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan after two decades: Report