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Why The US May Never Vacate Its Billion-Dollar, Multi-Facility Defence Base In Afghanistan – The Bagram Airbase?

OPED By Haider Abbas. Edited By Younis Dar

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As the US gears up for November 2020 presidential elections, there is growing speculation on whether the country’s armed forces will leave Afghanistan fully – a million-dollar question indeed! 

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Nowhere in the world can there ever be a sight where US soldiers are seen packing their bags to fly back home after entering into a peace deal with the same people they had trained their guns on – Afghan Taliban, along with 40 other nations for 19 years! 

The shabbily dressed Afghan-Taliban fighters made the global super-power ‘scurry for cover’ and President Donald Trump has finally announced to bring back US troops by Christmas from the war-torn country, something which the Pentagon does not want. 

The experts are left in a quandary over the fact that when Pentagon and the US establishment does not want it​,​ why is Trump so hell-bent on withdrawing from Afghanistan?

The answer lies in a study, which, however, almost unnoticed from the public gaze, claims that around 5,00,000 US military men, who have at some time served in Iraq or Afghanistan, have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder!  

An entire generation in the US has been ruined by such fruitless wars and the nation’s masses want an answer to it. The story, which was highlighted on ncbi.nlm.nih.gov on October 4, 2016, had prompted Trump to make a political issue out of it.

He finally, on September 8, 2020, crossed the proverbial rubicon by saying that the Pentagon wants to keep the war contractors happy.  

Why would the Pentagon, even at the cost of Donald Trump’s reputation, like to vacate the Bagram Airbase, in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, which is by no means a mini-city by all standards? 

A YouTube documentary by SBS Dateline, published on May 12, 2019, details the luxurious inside life of Bagram Air Base, in Jalalabad, about 70 kms north of Kabul, occupying about 5000 acres of land, and which had about 20,000 US troops stationed inside for two decades.

The airbase had almost everything to replicate the comforts of a home. It had a Freedom Radio station, Burger King, Dodge Challenger and Harley Davidson showrooms, a shopping mall housing every product the US soldiers could have bought back home. The place had beauty and spa outlets and even a hospital and credit card swapping centres.

To summarise, it had everything which gave the solace of home. There were around 4000 civilians from Russia, India and Pakistan who worked there as coffee boys and cleaners, etc. This airbase has now to be vacated.

Interestingly, this was the same base which the Russians had used against the Afghan-Taliban and now after US evacuation guess who is likely to settle in it? China! But as a friend of Afghan-Taliban.  

This airbase was no ordinary location as Trump had himself visited it and spent time with US soldiers, with even former US President Obama, George W Bush Junior and Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai reported to have been regularly visiting the base.

But now the US has a future plan, as it has envisaged BECA with India, which will help it to formulate its strategy to contain China, Pakistan as well as Afghanistan, so why would the country then leave Afghanistan? 

Perhaps never, as it will be foolish for the US in the first place to forsake its stranglehold in Afghanistan. The country will likely rent the war to its private army, Blackwater, which will keep the fight alive with Afghan-Taliban, along with Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and remnants of Ashraf Ghani government along with India, which under BECA will surely like US ‘giving a reply’ to China and Pakistan in case they go for a war against India, as that would mean a war with the US, under BECA.  

This airbase has been very critical for the US operations in the region, as it was from here the US fighters had flown to gun-down Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan, a claim which has been termed as a ‘hoax’ by Trump recently. 

He claimed that the one who was killed was Osama’s body-double, creating yet another storm in US polity. This statement from Trump is proof enough of the swordfight between him and the Pentagon. Strangely, the President is even ready to malign the US’s most coveted trophy, apparently to drub his opponent, Joseph Biden.

Meanwhile, either Trump or Pentagon or both have given yet another proof on how a promise on a deal is reneged, since, on October 18, Afghan-Taliban claimed that the latest excessive US airstrikes on non-combat zones in Afghanistan was a violation of the Doha agreement (signed between Afghan-Taliban and US on Feb 29, 2020).

The Afghan-Taliban was referring to a powerful blast that occurred outside police headquarters, killing 15 in Feroz Koh in Ghaur province, while the US has called it to be ‘consistent’ with the Doha agreement. 

One high ranking official, Abdullah Abdullah, in Ashraf Ghani government, had visited Pakistan and India lately, and later Gulbuddin Hekmatyar was on a three-day visit to Pakistan, to speculate about the growing probability; if the US is going to vacate Afghanistan fully.

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