Afghanistan’s district administrator for Bagram, Darwaish Raufi, told The Associated Press that the American departure was conducted overnight without specific coordination with local officials and, as a result, dozens of local looters managed to storm through the unprotected gates of the base before Afghan forces moved in.
“They were stopped and some have been arrested and the rest have been cleared from the base,” Raufi said, adding that the looters ransacked several buildings before being taken into custody.
The Pentagon announced Friday it had completely vacated the Bagram facility, its biggest airfield in the country, located about an hour’s drive from the Afghan capital Kabul.
Bagram’s new Afghan commander, Gen. Mir Asadullah Kohistani, said that, “we [heard] some rumor that the Americans had left Bagram … and finally by seven o’clock in the morning, we understood that it was confirmed that they had already left.”
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday that the turnover of the Bagram base had been the subject of extensive coordination with Afghan leaders in government and the Afghan security forces, but for security reasons, the details of the pullout were not divulged.
“The final conversations occurred about 48 hours prior,” Kirdy told reporters in Washington. “Obviously for operational security reasons, we didn’t go into the exact hour at which all U.S. forces would would leave Bagram. Again, as I said from the outset, we have had to operate under the assumption that this drawdown could be contested at any time.”
Addressing the issue of lack of notification of Bagram’s new commander about the specifics of the exfiltration, Kirby said, “I can’t speak for the level of information that went down the Afghan chain of command,” while adding that it would have been irresponsible to give the exact hour U.S. troops were departing.
The Pentagon said it expects the final withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan will be completed by the end of August, ahead of the Sept. 11 deadline called for by President Joe Biden.
The deputy spokesman for Afghanistan’s defense ministry, Fawad Aman, was cited by Newsweek as saying that Afghan National Security and Defense Forces were now in full control of Bagram, adding that they “will protect the base and use it to combat terrorism.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.