The American military newspaper Stars and Stripes has reflected on the continued withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan “through the lens of Pokémon Go”.
A Article Posted over the weekend includes interviews with former and currently serving members of the US military who played Pokémon Go while stationed at the base at Bagram Airfield near Kabul for the past several years.
According to the story, the base previously housed a “thriving” Pokémon Go community comprised of visiting troops, contractors, and civilians “who played while exercising and after work.”
“We didn’t expect Pokémon Go to thrive in Bagram, and yet it was,” said Corey Olsen, an electrician who worked on attack helicopters for the US military.
“Being able to start a conversation with a complete stranger in the middle of a war zone about something like Pokémon was a great way to stay social,” added a contractor named Wilbur Landaverde.
Alaska National Guard Captain John Sutter specifically recalled going to the gym with a Voltorb, an explosive electrical creature that can self-destruct.
Sutter said, “I thought … [we] there cannot be any IED Pokémon on the FOB. ”
Gyms on the base include one in the Warrior Chapel building and another in a memorial to a fallen soldier.
At least 40 people have been killed in suicide bombings in Bagram since the US occupation of Afghanistan began. The base was also used as a detention center, which was investigated in a 2005 New York Times report on serious prisoner abuse.
Control of the Bagram base was returned to Afghan government forces on July 1, as part of the US withdrawal of all troops from the country, to be completed on September 11.
“I’m sure somewhere in Afghanistan, some kid brags about how he took over an American Pokémon gym,” Sutter continued, lamenting the creatures he left behind in the base gyms. “Maybe in 20 years I can ride a motorcycle south and get that Pokémon gym back again.”
In reality, publishing the report detailing Bagram’s gyms will likely attract the attention of Pokémon Go players who “spoof” their phone’s position, allowing them to take their locations from afar. Officially, Pokémon Go has strict rules against creating in-game locations on military sites, although adding these to the game is left to the community to do with the police.
Pokémon Go celebrates its fifth anniversary this week, ahead of its grand annual Go Fest celebration in late July.