Hindustan Times (Lucknow)

‘US to soon hand over key air base to Afghan forces’

- Agence France-Presse letters@hindustant­imes.com

The US military will hand over its main Bagram air base to Afghan forces in about 20 days, an official said on Tuesday, as Washington presses on with withdrawin­g the last of its troops from the country.

The vast base, built by the Soviets in the 1980s, is the biggest military facility used by US and NATO forces in Afghanista­n, with tens of thousands of troops stationed there during the peak of America’s military involvemen­t in the violence-wracked country.

“I can confirm we will hand over Bagram air vase,” a US defence official told AFP without specifying when the transfer would take place.

An Afghan security official said the handover was expected in about 20 days and the defence ministry had set up special committees to manage it.

The base, the centre for nationwide command and air operations for the past two decades, also houses a prison that held thousands of Taliban and jihadist inmates over the years.

Washington has already handed over several military bases to Afghan forces before May 1, when it began accelerati­ng the final withdrawal of troops.

Last month, it completed the withdrawal from Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanista­n, once the second-largest foreign military base in the country.

Peace talks were launched last September in Qatar, but so far have failed to strike any deal to end a war that has killed tens of thousands of people over nearly two decades.

On Tuesday, a group of Afghan government negotiator­s was headed to Doha in the hope of resuming stalled peace talks.

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