Afghanistan: Hasty Bagram air base handover sums up America’s hurried exit from its longest war

Located an hour north of Kabul, Bagram was for nearly 20 years the hub of America’s war in Afghanistan. Now it is eerily quiet. The last US combat troops have left and the Afghan government is trying to work out how to use the sprawling complex — and how to secure it.

Afghan officials accompanying CNN on a tour of Bagram on Monday confessed that they were only now getting access to much of the base, and working out what had been left behind. One senior officer said he was notified last Thursday that his forces had less than 24 hours to secure the perimeter of the base.

The last US troops left the base on Friday. Some Afghan soldiers told CNN they only found out the Americans were leaving that very day.

There is a deep sense of abandonment among the Afghans now in possession of Bagram. One Afghan officer said to CNN that it felt like an old friend had left without saying goodbye.

The huge mustard-colored aircraft hangars remain locked. Among the equipment left behind are some 700 vehicles: Humvees, pickup trucks and 4 x 4s, some still littered with half-eaten American snacks like Oreos and partially consumed soda bottles. Beyond the hardware, there are other signs that this was not so long ago a little piece of America in the Hindu Kush mountains. Bagram had its own Burger King and Popeye’s franchises, a radio station and mini shopping mall. Once upon a time, there was even a Harley Davidson store here.