The combat mission in Afghanistan officially ended last Sunday, marking the end of the longest war in American history. Now, a new non-combat mission centered at Bagram Air field will take its place.
Originally built in the 1950’s, the Bagram Air Field in the Parwan province of Afghanistan served as an important base for the US first during the Cold War and later during the 1980’s Soviet war in Afghanistan. During the US-led war in Afghanistan the base was greatly expanded — once nothing more than a runway, by 2007 Bagram had become the size of a small town.
Now, the base is being shrunk as large swaths of housing are demolished to accommodate the 13,000 foreign NATO troops who will stay behind in a reduced, NATO-led “Resolute Support” mission to train and advise Afghan soldiers.
Once controlled by the Northern Alliance, the base was mainly occupied by the U.S. Armed Forces, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and minimally by the Afghan Armed Forces throughout the US-led war.
The base was attacked by insurgents several times throughout the war. The base reportedly came under daily rocket attack in 2002, and the 2007 Bagram Airfield bombing killed up to 23 people. In 2010, insurgents stormed the base with rockets, grenades, and suicide vests but failed to breach the perimeter.
Although NATO hopes to end its non-combat mission in two years time, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said last weekend that the US might want to “re-examine” its deadline to withdraw by the end of 2016. US Army Ranger Eric Lightfoot remains optimistic, however. “They’re getting better,” he told Reuters. “They are having more successes.”
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