The US has handed over Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanistan to the Afghan military, Stars and Stripes reported on Thursday. The base was one of the largest for the US and NATO coalition in Afghanistan and held an estimated 30,000 troops and contractors at the height of the US presence in the country.
“The handover of Kandahar Airfield was coordinated, both with senior leaders in [the Afghan government] and with our Afghan partners in the 205th Corps,” Col. Sonny Legget, a spokesman for the US and NATO coalition, said on Thursday.
An unnamed US military official told Stars and Stripes that coalition personnel might stay in Kandahar for “a day or two” to address security concerns. Afghan officials confirmed the US departure.
“The Americans have vacated their bases and they have left,” said a spokesman for Afghanistan’s 205th Atal Military Corps. Gen. Faqir Qowahi, the commander of the military side of the Kandahar Airport, said the US “left in the night.”
Earlier this week, US Central Command said the Afghanistan withdrawal was about six to 12 percent complete as part of its weekly updates on the process. The command is not disclosing the number of US troops currently in the country.
The US had somewhere between 2,500 and 3,500 troops in Afghanistan before President Biden ordered the withdrawal. The current plan is to get troops out by September 11th, although the US is reportedly in talks with the Taliban to complete earlier, possibly by July.
While the withdrawal has started, the US is looking to maintain influence and the ability to bomb Afghanistan. To do this, the US plans to continue supporting the Afghan military financially and is considering repositioning assets in neighboring countries, although it’s not clear where. The US could also try to leave a small troops presence in Afghanistan under the guise of protecting its diplomatic mission.