Inspired by the comments on this question, why was Bagram Air Base abandoned so early in the withdrawal? It seems like the stampede of people trying to get out of Afghanistan would have been less chaotic with the airstrip at Bagram still in operation. Obviously we had to leave it eventually, but why was that done July 2nd rather than late August or early September?

  • 1
    Not sure this is answerable with publicly available info. A guess: the planners had to go with (even if they might have disagreed with) estimates of how long the ANSF could hold control of the wider Kabul province. I'm pretty sure they didn't plan for a stampede. Commented Aug 29, 2021 at 8:51

1 Answer 1


The only relevant thing I could find in the press is that the Bagram closure date more or less coincided with the Pentagon announcing (on Jul 6) the watermark of withdrawing "more than 90% of its troops and equipment from Afghanistan". So it looks like from the Pentagon perspective [at the time] this closure wasn't early.

No plan survives contact with the enemy though, as the famous quote goes. And here by this I mean that clearly the Kabul situation took administration planners by surprise, as they sent thousands of US troops back in (around Aug 12), basically to substitute for the collapsed Afghan security forces around the Kabul airport. You can see this change on the declarative level as well:

National security adviser Jake Sullivan said Monday [August 16] that the “speed with which cities fell was much greater than anyone anticipated.”

On the other hand, when the Bagram airbase was being closed, the declarations were different:

“The jury is still out, but the likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely,” Biden said on July 8.

  • "90% of equipment"?! Didn't we leave hundreds of thousands of guns there as well as tens of thousands of other pieces of equipment including large vehicles and aircraft?
    – larry909
    Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 9:43
  • 2
    @larry909: I guess it depends how they were doing their accounting. (A good sub-Q here would be if a water bottle equals a soldier.) In any case, the Pentagon is famous for their creativity on that: "we count ships right". Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 13:24
  • 2
    @larry909 A lot of the captured equipment was actually ANA property when we left. It's possible that 90% figure isn't that far off. The ANA handing over mountains of guns we gave them is not exactly the same thing as us leaving mountains of guns. Neither are good, but the former seems a little less embarrassing to me.
    – Ryan_L
    Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 18:25
  • A new report in the press that expands a bit on your first point: in the judgment of the US military (or at least what they are leaking to the press now), the base had become too hard to defend with the number of US troops left in the country.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Sep 28, 2021 at 13:14

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .