US leaves main base in Afghanistan as pullout now set to end in late August

The Pentagon confirmed on Friday that it had turned over the sprawling Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan to the Afghan government and also announced that it now expects the total withdrawal of U.S. troops to be completed “at the end of August.”

The withdrawal of all U.S. military personnel from the base marks a major milestone in the withdrawal process as it had been the main hub for U.S. military operations in Afghanistan for the last 20 years.

Handing over control of the base had been seen as a key indicator that the end of the withdrawal from Afghanistan would be completed in July — months earlier than the Sept. 11 deadline set by President Joe Biden.

But the Pentagon announced Friday that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had approved a plan to transfer command authority for the U.S. Forces Afghanistan from Gen. Austin Scott Miller to Gen. Frank McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters that Miller will remain in Afghanistan for “a number of weeks.”