Helmand Post Transferred to Afghan Army as Withdrawal Begins

Aircrew carry their gear into a C-17 Globemaster III.
Aircrew carry their gear into a C-17 Globemaster III, April 27, 2021, at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. U.S. Air Force C-17s and other mobility aircraft are assisting with the drawdown operations from Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Kylee Gardner)

The U.S. military has transferred an installation in Helmand province to the Afghan National Army as it begins the process of withdrawing from Afghanistan.

Contingency Location New Antonik has been officially handed over to the Afghans, U.S. Central Command officials said in a Tuesday release.

Since President Joe Biden last month announced plans to pull all remaining U.S. forces from Afghanistan no later than Sept. 11, CENTCOM said about 60 C-17 loads of material have been flown out. Another more than 1,300 pieces of equipment were turned over to the Defense Logistics Agency for destruction, CENTCOM said.

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Between 2% and 6% of the withdrawal process has been finished as of Tuesday morning, CENTCOM estimates.

CENTCOM said it plans to provide weekly updates on the withdrawal process, but it will only provide approximate percentage ranges of how much is complete to preserve operational security.

It's not immediately clear whether New Antonik is the last U.S. installation in Helmand. Operation Resolute Support officials did not immediately respond to a query about it.

Helmand province was the site of some of the heaviest fighting of the Afghanistan War, particularly in places like Sangin, where Marines deployed in 2010 to relieve British troops. For two years, Marines fought fierce, bloody battles with the Taliban to retake Sangin, ultimately succeeding at bringing security to the district for a while.

Helmand, located in the south of Afghanistan, is the nation’s largest province and home of more than 1.4 million people, primarily Pashtuns. After the Taliban was driven from Kabul in the initial invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, there was not much of an international presence in Helmand. This allowed the Taliban to regroup there and gradually take power over the following years. Smuggling routes also run across the province’s southern border with Pakistan.

New Antonik was named in honor of Marine Staff Sgt. Chris Antonik, a Raider with 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion who was killed in 2010 during a battle in Helmand province.

-- Stephen Losey can be reached at stephen.losey@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StephenLosey.

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