Remnants of WTC left behind as final U.S. troops board flights out of Bagram Air Base

A massive beam from the collapsed World Trade Center that was sent as a memorial to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan in 2010 will likely remain behind as nearly all remaining American troops boarded planes this week, bringing an end to the country’s longest foreign war.

NYPD officers and firefighters from the FDNY brought debris from the World Trade Center to what would become a sprawling U.S. and NATO air base in December 2001, about three months after the attacks that brought the twin towers down and just a few days after the ruling Taliban government in Afghanistan was brought down for harboring Osama bin Laden, the 9/11 mastermind.

Roughly nine years later, in May 2010, a 950-pound steel beam from the World Trade Center was delivered to the base and set up as a monument to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks after it was donated by residents of Breezy Point, Queens, a borough of New York City. Afterward, it became a base landmark, marked with “WTC” on top of “9 11 01.”

In addition, another 9/11 memorial was set up at Kabul International Airport that included a World Trade Center fragment that was dedicated by members of the U.S. Air Force in 2012. The future of these memorials remains to be seen.

The last U.S. troops withdrew from Bagram on Friday, according to reports. President Joe Biden has pledged that all American personnel will have been withdrawn from the troubled country by the 20th anniversary of the attacks later this fall.

But left in the wake of the U.S. departure is great uncertainty, as the Taliban has already retaken abandoned U.S. and NATO bases as well as additional swaths of the country. Also, there is a widespread belief that the group will retake control of the entire government at some point.

“We consider this withdrawal a positive step. Afghans can get closer to stability and peace with the full withdrawal of foreign forces,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said, according to Reuters.

“The Americans must leave Afghanistan and there should be peace in this country,” said Kabul resident Javed Arman, according to Reuters.

“We are in a difficult situation. Most people have fled their districts and some districts have fallen. Seven districts in Paktia province have fallen and are now under Taliban control,” he added.

Some U.S. experts lamented the withdrawal, claiming that it will become more difficult for America to identify emerging terrorist threats.

“When the time comes for the US military to withdraw, the US government’s ability to collect and act on threats will diminish. That’s simply a fact,” said CIA Director William Burns in April, according to The Associated Press.

“You may not be blind, but you’re going to be legally blind,” added Rep. Mike Waltz (R-Fla.), a former Green Beret who served in Afghanistan.

As for the memorial at Bagram, the beam “was donated to the Army through an organization called Sons and Daughters of America,” the 9/11 Memorial and Museum noted in a post at the time. The beam was delivered to the base via Chinook helicopter before being transported to the memorial location.

Bagram Air Base became the largest military operation in Afghanistan. It was initially built by Soviet troops during that country’s decade-long war after invading on behalf of the Moscow-friendly government in late 1979, but was greatly expanded as the U.S. and NATO footprint in Afghanistan grew.

By December 2001, there were already 2,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan with orders from then-President George W. Bush to oust the Taliban government and look for bin Laden. The number of U.S. troops peaked at 100,000 in August 2010 under then-President Barack Obama.

During his 2016 campaign, candidate Donald Trump pledged to get all U.S. forces out of the country but was unable to do so after heeding the advice of his military commanders.

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Jon Dougherty

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