BAGRAM, Afghanistan — For almost 20 years, Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan was the anchor for America’s war, its sprawling twin runways serving to launch bombing raids, journeys home, medical evacuations, mail runs and U.S.O. shows.
But despite years of preparation for this moment, the Americans’ departure from Bagram this past week was marked by little fanfare, seemingly as disjointed as the Afghan government’s plan for what happens next.
For weeks, the Taliban have been carrying out attacks across the country, killing members of the Afghan security forces and forcing hundreds of others to surrender. Throughout the country, warlords — power brokers from the civil-war era of the 1990s and newly minted militia commanders — are calling on Afghan civilians to join their makeshift armies in defending the country.
The convergence of government troops, Taliban fighters, warlords and citizen militias signals that the violence will almost certainly worsen. The U.S. military is expected to leave the country completely by Sept. 11, as President Biden follows through on his promise to bring American forces home from the nation’s longest foreign war.
At Bagram, the new tenants are the Afghan security forces who will inherit the conflict the United States built for them, along with fields of military equipment, vehicles and weapons that will long represent the war’s grim legacy and the country’s uncertain future.
To continue the fight, the United States has left behind its tan and green pickups and its Humvees, along with its Hesco barriers, the cube-shaped, dirt-filled boxes used to build and protect American, now Afghan, outposts.
But so many U.S.-supplied weapons have been captured, bought or stolen by
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