On Friday, the Pentagon acknowledged that it had handed over the massive Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan to the Afghan government, as well as announcing that the whole departure of US soldiers will now be completed “by the end of August.”
The departure of all US military troops from the facility is a significant step forward in the disengagement process, as it had served as the principal center for US military activities in Afghanistan for the past two decades.
The transfer of authority of the facility was viewed as a major signal that the departure from Afghanistan will be finished in July, months ahead of President Joe Biden’s Sept. 11 timetable.
However, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Friday that a proposal to shift command authority for US Forces Afghanistan from Gen. Austin Scott Miller to Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of US Central Command, had been authorized.
Miller will stay in Afghanistan for “a number of weeks,” according to Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby.
According to a military source, troops from the elite 75th Ranger Regiment assisted with the closure of Bagram Airfield on Thursday.
With the departure of the last military planes carrying out American military troops and equipment, U.S. military activities at the facility came to an end. The US Central Command announced earlier this week that 896 C-17 freight flights had already taken place.
Kirby also stated that the “process” of the US military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan will be finished by the “end of August.”
The existing defensive airstrike power that Miller has to attack the Taliban in support of the troops would be passed to McKenzie, according to the spokesperson.
According to a US official, a group of 650 American military troops would stay in Kabul after the US pullout is completed to assist guard the US Embassy and the Kabul civilian airport.
Rear Adm. Peter Vasily, who will be headquartered at the embassy and command U.S. Forces Afghanistan-Forward, will be in charge of this force.
While Turkey promised to provide security at the airport, a step considered as critical in securing the safety and operations of the US Embassy, the pace of the US military evacuation had proceeded so fast that it was unclear whether Turkey would be able to have its soldiers in position in time.
In addition, numerous specifics on plans to relocate at least 9,000 Afghan interpreters and their families outside of Afghanistan have yet to be completed.
Army Brig. Gen. Curtis Buzzard will be located in Qatar to run the defense security cooperation management office, which would administer US financing to the Afghan military, in addition to the new headquarters in Kabul.