As of Friday, U.S. troops have pulled out of the military base of Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. In their wake, they leave a trail of Pokémon in the Pokémon GO smartphone game.
U.S. military news outlet Stars and Stripes reported that the game was popular among people stationed at Bagram. However, as U.S. withdrawal from the base progressed, Stars and Stripes found that various low-level Pokémon have been defending Gym locations for a longer period of time than normal. A Lotad was stationed at the former Warrior Chapel for 10 days, while an Aron spent around two weeks defending a memorial to a fallen servicemember.
Servicemen recalled using the game as a means to socialize and relieve stress during deployment. The gyms were frequently visited by troops, contractors, and civilians in the past several years.
John Sutter, who was deployed at the base in 2019 as a captain, said that he would like to return one day to reclaim the gyms if the situation in Afghanistan improves, remarking that “I’m sure somewhere in Afghanistan, some kid is bragging about how he took control of an American Pokémon gym.”
Bagram Airfield was the largest military base in Afghanistan, serving as a hub for American air operations. Its closure marks a symbolic end to America’s involvement in the 20-year war in Afghanistan, as the military continues to wind down its operations in the region. Afghan security forces have taken control of the airfield.