Almost as soon as the US military left its biggest air base in Afghanistan, looters rolled in

A plane lands at Bagram airfield in Afghanistan.
A US Air Force transport plane landed at the Bagram air base in Afghanistan on July 1. Wakil Kohsar/Getty Images
  • Bagram, the biggest air base in Afghanistan, was ransacked within hours of the US’s withdrawal.
  • Afghan officials said the US didn’t coordinate the withdrawal with them. The US military denies this.
  • Looters stole laptops and gas canisters. It’s not a good sign for the future of Afghanistan.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Within hours of the US withdrawal from Bagram – the largest air base in Afghanistan and the longtime hub of America’s longest war – looters rolled in.

The looters stole laptops and gas canisters from the base, said Darwaish Raufi, a district administrator for Bagram, The New York Times reported.

Raufi said the US withdrawal from the base was done overnight and not in coordination with local officials.

“Unfortunately the Americans left without any coordination with Bagram district officials or the governor’s office,” Raufi said, the Associated Press reported. “Right now our Afghan security forces are in control both inside and outside of the base.”

The looters were “stopped and some have been arrested and the rest have been cleared from the base,” Raufi said. A local said the looters also stole materials such as metal and plastic that could be sold as scrap, Stars and Stripes correspondent J.p. Lawrence reported.

Typically, bases are turned over between military forces when the new troops are able to, at a minimum, secure the perimeter. That the base was so easily ransacked following the US pullout doesn’t bode well for Afghanistan’s future.

Col. Sonny Leggett, a spokesperson for the US-led coalition in Afghanistan, pushed back against the notion that the US wasn’t in contact with local officials about the withdrawal. Leggett told The Times the pullout was “closely coordinated.”

Control of Bagram has been handed over to the Afghan military.

The US withdrawal from Bagram came almost three months after President Joe Biden announced an end to the “forever war” in Afghanistan.

Biden pledged to withdraw all troops by September 11, though about 650 are expected to remain to protect the US Embassy in Kabul.

The US is leaving Afghanistan in a precarious state, with the Taliban emboldened and taking over districts across the country. With the full US withdrawal on the horizon and Afghan forces repeatedly losing or surrendering, regional militias have popped up to carry on the fight against the Taliban.

US officials have warned that deserting bases such as Bagram leaves the US few options to strike terror groups or launch raid forces to capture militants, should the country again become a hideout for groups plotting to attack the West. Aircraft-carrier-launched fighters, for instance, would need clearance to fly over Pakistan on long missions to Afghanistan that would have little loiter time to find targets before returning, with the added risk of having to evacuate an American pilot whose jet malfunctions or is shot down.

Gen. Austin S. Miller, the top US commander in Afghanistan, earlier this week offered a grim assessment of what could come next for Afghanistan.

“A civil war is certainly a path that can be visualized if this continues on the trajectory it’s on right now, that should be of concern to the world,” Miller told reporters.