After troops leave, US will opt for airstrikes in Afghanistan

After troops leave, US will opt for airstrikes in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON: US forces will remain involved in the Afghanistan war in September, holding the option of launching airstrikes against the Taliban to protect Afghan forces, US officials said on Thursday, even as the last combat troops remain in the coming days. I am preparing to leave the country. For weeks, officials have said the withdrawal of the main US military force and its equipment from Afghanistan will largely be completed by this weekend, well ahead of the September 11 deadline set by President Joe Biden. Army General Scott Miller, the top American commander there, will leave, marking a turning point in the American mission. But a series of complicating factors mean that America’s involvement in the 20 Years’ War will not end.
Officials said when Miller leaves, his combat role, including the authority to launch attacks on the Taliban and conduct counter-terrorism operations against al-Qaeda or other groups, will be taken over by Marine General Frank McKenzie, the top US commander. Middle East, which is located in Florida. Officials said there have been several US airstrikes in support of the Afghans in recent weeks using warplanes based outside Afghanistan and those strikes will continue.
The new US commander inside Afghanistan will be Navy Rear Admiral Peter Wesley, who will lead the security mission at the US embassy. He is already in Kabul, working with Miller on a transition, officials said on condition of anonymity to discuss new details of the return.
Vasily will have 650 US troops in the country, largely based in the embassy to secure the diplomatic mission, a force that will remain in place indefinitely. In addition, by September, McKenzie will have the authority to keep 300 more troops in Afghanistan to help with security, including the airport, officials said.
The Pentagon and other US leaders – from the White House to Capitol Hill – have expressed concern about a recent escalation in violence in Afghanistan, amid fears it would lead to a wider civil war and the collapse of the Afghan government and its military.
During his final news conference in Kabul earlier this week, Miller painted a grim picture of the security situation. He noted the Taliban’s rapid loss of districts across the country and warned that “a civil war is certainly a path that can be imagined. If it continues now, it should be of concern to the world.” ”
Meanwhile, the US is also scrambling to develop a plan to expel thousands of Afghan interpreters and others who assisted the US-led coalition. While the US military is not expected to play a major role in the evacuation, troops may be needed to ensure safety for departure.
Thus, while the military has intensified its exit, security requires that the September deadline remain the ultimate goal.
“We remain on the timeline that the president announced a few weeks ago, which is to get our troops out of Afghanistan by September, while remaining diplomatic presence on the ground,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said this week. Is.”
Officials have repeatedly stressed that security at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul is a critical requirement for any US diplomatic personnel being held in Afghanistan. While Turkey has agreed to continue that mission, agreements with the Afghans and the US have not been finalized.
As part of the agreement with Turkey, the US will place a C-RAM – or counter-rocket, artillery, mortar system – at the airport as well as troops to operate it. The US is also planning to drop aircrew at the airport for helicopter support.
It is unclear when Miller will board the plane and depart with his staff and security, but it is expected soon. Once that is gone and the equipment withdrawal is complete, the US will focus its attention on two missions – protecting diplomats and providing financial and military aid to the Afghan government from outside the country.
This withdrawal essentially complements a deal made when the Trump administration signed a peace deal with the Taliban in February 2020. The deal called for the withdrawal of US forces by May 2021, and in return, the Taliban vowed to cut ties with al-Qaeda. After taking office to ensure that Afghanistan would not again become a safe haven for terrorists wanting to attack the US, Biden extended the withdrawal deadline to September 11.
The US has also made it clear that it will continue to monitor terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan, including al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group. And the United States reserves the right to attack any extremist who poses a threat to the American homeland.
Bagram Airfield, a sprawling complex north of Kabul that has long been the center of US military power in Afghanistan, is due to be handed over to Afghans any day now.
NATO agreed in April to pull out about 7,000 of its non-US forces, and by this week 19 nations had announced the withdrawal of more than 4,800 troops. Germany and Italy announced their missions in Afghanistan on Wednesday and Poland’s last soldiers returned home.

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