US has closed 10 bases in Afghanistan: WP
WASHINGTON: The United States has closed at least 10 bases across Afghanistan since the signing of a deal with the Taliban in February, The Washington Post reported on Friday.
Quoting US and Afghan officials, the Post reported that the base closures were part of the complete withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan outlined in the deal.
The report claimed that some bases had been completely handed over to Afghan security forces and others were vacated but “left in place in a way in which they could be occupied again in the future,” if needed. “It is also unclear how much equipment is left at each of the closed installations,” the report added.
The Trump administration plans to bring down troop numbers from roughly 5,000 to 2,500 by Jan. 15, days before President Trump leaves office.
One US official told the Post that despite the withdrawal order the United States would like to “retain the ability to carry out airstrikes against the Taliban in defence of Afghan forces. US troops will also remain able to carry out some counterterrorism strikes against the Islamic State.”
As the withdrawal date drew close, the Pentagon was busy finalizing certain significant decisions, including “which other bases will close, what equipment will be turned over to the Afghan government, and how US equipment will be ticketed to leave.”
The decisions will be made in consultation with both NATO allies and Afghan partners, the Post added.
Recently, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned Washington that “an abrupt departure risks allowing Afghanistan to become a haven for terrorists.”
The government in Kabul hopes that the incoming Biden administration may not be as keen on pulling out troops as the outgoing Trump administration was and it would also be tougher on the Taliban.
The report pointed out that there were hundreds of US bases and outposts in Afghanistan at the height of the American military’s surge a decade ago, and dozens in recent years as the military shrunk its presence over time.
‘Further closures show that the United States is collapsing its forces in Afghanistan back into its bigger military installations to save on the large number of troops needed to secure the perimeter of multiple small outposts,” the Post added.
The bases closed soon after the US-Taliban deal, included Tarin Kowt in Uruzgan province, Bost in Helmand, Gamberi in Laghman and Lightning in Paktia. Others closed this year include Jones in Kunduz, DeAlencar in Nangahar, Shaheen in Balkh, Bishop in Kabul, Maymana in Faryab and Qalat in Zabul.
Even the bases that were once the largest in the country, like Kandahar Airfield and Jalalabad Air Base, now only housed a handful of US troops, the report added.
Published in Dawn, November 28th, 2020