This Day In History: July 2

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On July 2, 2021, the United States vacates Bagram Airfield, the U.S. Air Force Base north of Kabul, and turns it over to Afghan forces, a major milestone in the longest war in U.S. military history.

Bagram, previously used by the Soviet Union to store aircraft hangars, had become the epicenter of the U.S. occupation. U.S. forces first arrived in Afghanistan to oust the Taliban regime following the September 11 attacks. The Biden Administration had promised a full troop withdrawal from all of its bases by September 11, 2021.

The U.S. government immediately faced public outcry by Afghan officials over its transition from U.S. to Afghan military operations: Afghan officials accused the U.S. of secretly leaving the airbase overnight without notifying the base’s new commander, leaving the facilities unguarded and open to scavenging and looting. At the same time, U.S. intelligence publicly predicted that the Afghan government could fall to the Taliban within two years of the complete American withdrawal.

By August 15, less than two months after the U.S. withdrawal from Bagram, the Taliban had seized the capital of Kabul, prompting the country's president to flee and over 100,000 residents to evacuate. Soon after, reports emerged of human rights violations by Taliban operatives. As the Taliban resumed full power and cracked down on the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan, the United States and other countries froze their financial aid to the country—prompting warnings by the United Nations that millions of Afghanis could face potentially life-threatening food shortages.