It’s imminent: After nearly 20 years US to leave Bagram

Kathy Gannon, The Associated Press

An Afghan Army soldier walks at the gate of Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, June 25, 2021. (Rahmat Gul/AP)

BAGRAM, Afghanistan — For nearly 20 years, Bagram Airfield was the heart of American military power in Afghanistan, a sprawling mini-city behind fences and blast walls just an hour’s drive north of Kabul. Initially, it was a symbol of the U.S. drive to avenge the 9/11 attacks, then of its struggle for a way through the ensuing war with the Taliban.

In just a matter of days, the last U.S. troops will depart Bagram. They are leaving what probably everyone connected to the base, whether American or Afghan, considers a mixed legacy.

“Bagram grew into such a massive military installation that, as with few other bases in Afghanistan and even Iraq, it came to symbolize and epitomize the phrase ‘mission creep’,” said Andrew Watkins, Afghanistan senior analyst for the Brussels-based International Crisis Group.

U.S. Central Command said last week that it’s well past 50 percent done packing up Bagram, and the rest is going fast. American officials have said the entire pullout of U.S. troops will most likely be completely finished by July 4. The Afghan military will then take over Bagram as part of its continuing fight against the Taliban — and against what many in the country fear will be a new eruption of chaos.

The departure is rife with symbolism. Not least, it’s the second time that an invader of Afghanistan has come and gone through Bagram.

The Soviet Union built the airfield in the 1950s. When it invaded Afghanistan in 1979 to back a communist government, it turned it into its main base from which it would defend its occupation of the country. For 10 years, the Soviets fought the U.S.-backed mujahedeen, dubbed freedom fighters by President Ronald Reagan, who saw them as a front-line force in one of the last Cold War battles.

The Soviet Union negotiated its withdrawal in 1989. Three years later, the pro-Moscow government collapsed, and the mujahedeen took power, only to turn their weapons on each other and kill thousands of civilians. That turmoil brought to power the Taliban who overran Kabul in 1996.

A U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft taxis to its parking spot Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Sept. 25, 2012. (Capt. Raymond Geoffroy/Air Force)

A U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft taxis to its parking spot Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Sept. 25, 2012. (Capt. Raymond Geoffroy/Air Force)



A Russian MiG-31 with a Kinzahl hypersonic missile.

TEL AVIV: Israel appears to have monitored Russia’s air force testing a Kinzhal hypersonic missile over the Mediterranean last week.

Israeli sensors monitor the area constantly and data from them is being checked. The test was probably performed after a Russian aircraft took off from Khmeimim air base located southeast of Latakia, a city  in northwestern Syria, Israeli sources say.

The KH-47M2 Kinzhal is an air-launched Russian nuclear capable missile with a range of 2,000 km. It can reach a speed of Mach 10 and is capable of performing evasive maneuvers.

Russian media reported that the Kinzhal missile was fired from a MiG-31K aircraft at a virtual target in the Mediterranean. The planes took off from the Khmeimim air base in Syria.

“A pair of MiG-31K aircraft with the ability to use the latest hypersonic missiles from the Kinzhal complex flew from Russian airfields to the Russian airbase Khmeimim in Syria for exercises,” Russia’s Defense Ministry said. According to the Moscow Times , the MiG-31Ks joined other Russian warplanes and submarines in the eastern Mediterranean. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the Russian exercises included an Il-38 and Tu-142MK anti-submarine aircraft, as well as Tu-22M3 supersonic bombers.

One of Israel’s main flight control centers is located on Mount Miron in northern Israel. It is operated by the Israeli air force and monitors large parts of air space including the Mediterranean.

Israel has more sensors monitoring the surrounding counties. No Israeli official was willing to comment on the test.


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Some Israeli observers say the missile test is part of Moscow’s effort to gain a very strong presence in the Mediterranean. For example, they say that in recent days the Russian Air Force and the Russian Navy performed a joint combat drill just 30 km from the British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, is currently in the eastern Mediterranean. within a closed area south of Cyprus.

The Russian air and naval exercises are taking place in the context of troubled relations between Moscow and London following Russia’s forces firing warning shots and dropping bombs during exercises when a British Royal Navy destroyer was nearby. Russia wrongly claimed the ship entered its waters in the Black Sea last Wednesday. Russia illegally invaded and occupied Crimea, a part of Ukraine. Now Russia tries to impose its sovereignty on the area by claiming the territorial waters around Crimea.

The Russian defense ministry issued a statement claiming that HMS Defender “was given a preliminary warning that weapons would be used if the state borders of the Russian Federation were violated. It did not react to the warning.” The British Defense Ministry statement said simply that no shots were fired at HMS Defender: “The Royal Navy ship is conducting innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters in accordance with international law.”