Afghanistan: end of an era for the American base in Bagram nicknamed the “Guantanamo of the East”

The base, built by the Soviets, has been officially closed since Friday after 20 years of American and NATO occupation. A page is turning in Afghanistan where the threat of a Taliban return is becoming clearer. 

It is quite a symbol. The US base at Bagram in Afghanistan was officially closed on Friday July 2. Located 50 km north of Kabul, it was the largest US base in the country from which operations against the Taliban were launched, which welcomed the departure of foreign forces from Bagram.

A base with supermarket and cinemas

The base of Bagram is a small digest of the history of Afghanistan. It was the Soviets who built it when they occupied the country, it was then used as their headquarters. When the United States entered the war in 2001, the base grew in strength: at the height of operations against the Taliban, it sheltered up to 30,000 American soldiers and civilians as well as NATO forces.

The base was a real American town that stretched over more than 2,000 hectares. There was a 24-hour supermarket , cafes, fast food outlets and even cinemas. Bagram also served as a prison. Several hundred suspects have been held there without trial. The base has even been dubbed “Guatanamo of the East”, which has fueled resentment against the Americans.

A closure after 20 years of war 

The closure of Bagram is symbolic of the withdrawal of the Americans from Afghanistan who want to definitively close the Afghan chapter. For two years, the Americans have been negotiating with the Taliban. Donald Trump initiated this dialogue to put an end to 20 years of war which cost more than 2,000 billion dollars, not to mention the 2,500 American soldiers who died on the spot. Western intervention cost four times more than the Marshall Plan. 

The return of the Bagram base to the Afghans foreshadows the withdrawal of the last American soldiers, which must be completed soon. However, the US military refuses to be more specific on the speed of the withdrawal and its final date to preserve the security of operations. President Joe Biden had given September 11 as the deadline, a very symbolic date since it is the anniversary of the Word Trade Center attacks. For now, only Germany and Italy have confirmed having repatriated their last troops.

Taliban welcome Americans’ departure and could take advantage of it 

The closure of Bagram represents a turning point for the Taliban since it symbolized the Western intervention against which they have always fought. The Taliban have also reacted through the voice of their spokesperson to affirm that they support the departure of American troops. According to them, this departure will allow the Afghans to decide for themselves their future. But nothing is less certain … The closure of Bagram and the withdrawal of the last American soldiers is seen by the Afghans as an abandonment of the West in the face of the Taliban who are gaining ground every day.

The Taliban control a hundred of the 400 districts in Afghanistan, they surround several regional capitals and are only about fifty kilometers from Kabul. In the event that they regain power, there are still many unanswered questions: how will Afghanistan be governed, who will ensure the safety of Western diplomats even if the Taliban have given pledges? Are the embassies going to remain open? Finally, what will become of the Afghan women who have won rights since the departure of the Taliban in 2001? The future is more than bleak.

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