US launched several airstrikes in support of Afghan troops against Taliban

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The US military launched several airstrikes this week in support of Afghan government forces fighting Taliban insurgents, including in the strategically important Kandahar province, officials said Thursday.

The strikes demonstrate the US intent to continue to support the Afghan armed forces with warplanes stationed outside the country, at least until the scheduled conclusion of the US military withdrawal on August 31. The Biden administration has not said whether it will continue that support after the withdrawal is complete.

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The US has a variety of fighter jets in the Middle East within range of Afghanistan, including aircraft carrier fighter jets in the region and fighters and bombers in the Gulf region.

Asked by a reporter about news reports of a Navy FA-18 airstrike in the Kandahar area, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby did not confirm details, including aircraft type or location, but said: “In the past For days we acted, through air strikes, in support of the ANDSF,” using an acronym for the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces. “But I won’t go into the technicalities of those strikes.”

These are the first known US airstrikes in Afghanistan since General Scott Miller, who was the top US commander in the country, relinquished command and left the country last week. The authority to conduct airstrikes against the Taliban has since been in the hands of General Frank McKenzie, the commander of the US Central Command, which oversees US military involvement in the greater Middle East.

Following Kirby’s comments, another defense official said the United States carried out a total of more than four airstrikes in support of Afghan forces on Wednesday and Thursday.

At least two of the attacks were aimed at destroying military equipment, including an artillery piece and a vehicle, that the Taliban had captured from Afghan forces, the official said. The Afghans called for these attacks, as well as attacks on Taliban combat positions, including at least one attack in southern Kandahar province.

US officials have urged Afghans to use their own warplanes and their US-trained ground forces. In recent months, Afghan forces have ceded a significant portion of territory to the Taliban, raising questions about their ability to hold out after the US completes its withdrawal.

Read more: At least seven Afghan pilots killed in Taliban killings as US withdraws

At a Pentagon press conference on Wednesday, General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the future of Afghanistan is in the hands of the Afghan people, urging them to assert their will on the battlefield.

“The Afghan security forces have the capacity to fight and defend their country adequately, and we will continue to support the Afghan security forces where necessary in accordance with the guidance of the president and defense secretary,” Milley said.

Milley said the Taliban now control about half of Afghanistan’s 419 district centers, and although they have not yet taken any of the country’s 34 provincial capitals, they are pressuring about half of them. As the Taliban occupy more territory, Afghan security forces are consolidating their positions to protect key population centers, including Kabul, he said.

“A significant amount of territory has been taken by the Taliban over the course of six, eight, ten months, so the momentum seems — strategic momentum seems — kind of with the Taliban,” Milley said.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said after August 31, the end date set by President Joe Biden for completing the military withdrawal, the U.S. main military focus will be on countering threats to its homeland from extremist groups in Afghanistan. . He added that the government will provide financial and other support to the Afghan armed forces, even if there are no combat troops or attack aircraft.

“Make no mistake, we remain committed to helping the Afghan security forces and the Afghan government in the future, and we are doing what we said we would do in terms of putting the papers in order to make sure we get those can provide support,” Austin said.

Read more: Taliban say they control 90 percent of Afghanistan’s borders after offensives


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