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U.S. hands over control of key airbase to Afghans for first time in 20 years

The handover is part of President Joe Biden's total withdrawal, which is planned to be complete by September, which will be the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. UPI Photo/File
The handover is part of President Joe Biden's total withdrawal, which is planned to be complete by September, which will be the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. UPI Photo/File

July 2 (UPI) -- The U.S. military on Friday turned over Bagram Air Base -- the longtime center of American forces in Afghanistan -- to the Afghan military, officials said Friday.

The handover marks the first time in nearly 20 years the Pentagon has relinquished control of the base.

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Afghan defense ministry spokesman Rohullah Ahamadzai confirmed the handover to CNN.

Lt. Col. Atiqullah Tarin, a recruiter for the Afghan military, said hundreds of former Afghan army soldiers will be sent to Bagram this weekend to secure the base.

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"We hope there are no more foreign soldiers on our land," Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told CBS News.

After arriving in late 2001 after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the military turned the once barely functioning airbase in Afghanistan's Parwan province near Kabul into a modern, self-contained airfield with a two-mile landing strip that housed thousands of U.S. troops and contractors.

The handover is part of President Joe Biden's total withdrawal, which is planned to be complete by September, which will be the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

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"It really does represent the true completion of the U.S. military experience of the last 20 years in the country," Jason Campbell, a policy researcher at Rand Corp., told Stars and Stripes.

U.S. Central Command said this week the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan is more than 50% complete.

Before the U.S. arrival two decades ago, the Soviet Union used the Bagram base for military operations during its failed war with Afghanistan in the 1980s.

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The Afghan government said the United States is leaving behind military and operational equipment worth $1 billion for Afghan forces.

Some Afghans worry that the equipment should have been removed, over fears that it could fall into the hands of the Taliban or other terrorist groups.

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