Kandahar: Officials said on Friday that the United States has evacuated from Kandahar Airport in southern Afghanistan, which was once the country’s second largest US military base.
Kandahar Province is the birthplace of the Taliban. In recent months, there have been fierce conflicts between radical militants and the Afghan army.
Just last week, the United States launched an air strike from the base to help Afghan forces withdraw to the main offensive of the Taliban.
“They have not officially handed over the base to us but I can confirm they left the base on Wednesday,” said Khoja Yaya Alawi, a spokesman for the Afghan army in Kandahar.
“They have handed over all the facilities to Afghan forces,” added Massoud Pashtun, the director of Kandahar Airport.
An official handover is expected to take place after the Muslim holiday of Eid, which ends on Saturday, they said.
An Afghan army officer at Kandahar Airfield, who asked not to be named, told AFP that government forces would be left exposed by the pullout.
“It is now going to be very difficult for us to conduct operations,” he said. “Our aircraft can t fly at night so the night operations are going to be difficult.”
At its height, the airfield was the second largest base for US and international troops and the first airfield where US forces were stationed after the fall of the Taliban in 2001.
It was also the centre of the biggest drone operation by US special forces in Afghanistan.
Over the years, military power has been steadily reducing its presence in the country. Last year, after Washington and the Taliban reached an agreement to completely withdraw from Afghanistan in exchange for security assurances, military strength accelerated.
However, the United States missed the May 1 deadline and extended it to September 11, a move that angered the Taliban.
Although fighting between the U.S. military and the Taliban has ceased since the landmark agreement was reached last year, fighting between the Afghan government forces and militants has surged every day, and the fighting has intensified since the deadline was missed.
The Taliban and Afghan forces are currently in the midst of a three-day ceasefire, which provides a respite for Afghans across the country to celebrate the Muslim holiday.
The Pentagon said on Tuesday that so far, it has completed 6% to 12% of the final withdrawal.
The next day, the Afghan Ministry of Defense announced that it had taken control of the Morehead Camp, a US base in Kabul, where US troops trained the Afghan army. The camp will now be used by Afghan special forces.