During the process of evacuation of Afghan citizens by US troops, the CIA managed to evacuate 1,000 Afghans from the special forces, as reported by media outlets such as Politico. The US, as well as other NATO nations that were present in Afghanistan, began an evacuation process to remove vulnerable citizens from the Asian country. Among these people were translators or other workers who assisted the foreign forces.
To ensure the departure of these Afghan soldiers, many of whom were trained by US troops, they were moved to a secret CIA facility outside Kabul, Eagle Base. As The New York Times reports, this is the first time the US has used a secret base for evacuations. This infrastructure was located between the outskirts of the Afghan capital and a mountain range.
In addition to the Afghan soldiers, their families were also evacuated in an operation that involved the CIA and "worked closely with other agencies to facilitate access to the airport for vulnerable US citizens and Afghans". Several Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters used by the Afghan army made at least 35 flights between Eagle Base and Kabul airport.
This secret US intelligence base, in addition to serving as a training centre for Afghan soldiers and recently as a site for evacuations, also contained the first detention centre established by the CIA in Afghanistan, known as the Salt Pit. According to US reports, the intelligence agency subjected detainees at the facility to torture. As in the case of Gul Rahman, who died of hypothermia after being stripped naked and chained to a wall. Rahman was arrested in 2002 by US forces.
Before leaving the country completely, US forces destroyed Eagle Base to prevent the Taliban from getting hold of sensitive materials. The detonation of the facility followed the attacks at Kabul airport, leading many people to believe that it was another attack.
In videos released by the Taliban after the US withdrawal, ruined buildings and ashes can be seen. "This was a very important place," says a Taliban fighter in one of the released footage.
Earlier, between April and May, US authorities began destroying some of the Salt Pit buildings, following President Joe Biden's announcement to withdraw troops in September. This structure was begun between 2002 and 2004, years in which the CIA began developing "enhanced interrogation techniques", as The New York Times notes.
Eagle Base, on the other hand, was established in a former brick factory, although over time Washington constructed buildings to create a large complex that served to train Afghan soldiers and the country's counterterrorism forces. As US officials have claimed, some of these troops were the only ones who continued to fight as the Taliban gained more territory and power. "They were one of the main ways the Afghan government has kept the Taliban at bay for the last 20 years," Mick Mulroy, a former CIA officer, told The New York Times. "They were the last to fight and they suffered a lot of casualties," he added.
Washington has ended its military presence in Afghanistan after 20 years of war. The image of Major General Chris Donahue leaving the country has become a symbol of the US withdrawal. This photo, which will go down in history, also closes an era, both in the history of Afghanistan and in US foreign policy. However, the evacuation process is not yet over for the Biden Administration, as there are still US citizens and Afghan collaborators in the country.
"We're looking at all possible options: air routes, ground routes to continue to find ways to help evacuate," said Victoria Nuland, deputy secretary of state. An estimated 100 to 200 Americans are still in Afghanistan. Washington has also welcomed efforts by Qatar and Turkey to reopen Kabul airport.