US Escalates Airstrikes Against Taliban Targets

Kabul: The US has escalated its airstrikes against Taliban targets in Afghanistan in a bid to bolster Afghan government forces combatting a sprawling offensive, the Pentagon said on Tuesday.

Defense Department spokesman Lt. Col. Jon Quinlan confirmed in an email exchange with Anadolu Agency that “a number of strikes have occurred over the last several days from both manned and unmanned strike platforms.”

Also, during a visit to Kabul on July 25, Gen. Frank McKenzie, Commander, U.S. Central Command provided an update on the U.S. military’s continuing assistance to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the ANDSF. “The United States has increased airstrikes in the support of Afghan forces over the last several days, and we’re prepared to continue this heightened level of support in the coming weeks if the Taliban continue their attacks,” said McKenzie. “I reassured the government that we are continuing to provide airstrikes in defense of ANDSF forces under attack by the Taliban, contract logistics support both here in Kabul and over-the-horizon in the region, funding for them, intelligence sharing, and advising and assisting through security consultations at the strategic level.”

The full exit of US forces from Afghanistan ordered by President Joe Biden is expected to be completed by the end of August, bringing an end to the US’s longest war, which is now in its 20th year. Violence has risen in Afghanistan since the announcement that all US and NATO forces are set to withdraw from the country this summer.

This comes even as the DoD has retrograded the equivalent of approximately 984 C-17 loads of material out of Afghanistan and have turned nearly 17,074 pieces of equipment to the Defense Logistics Agency for disposition. The 17,074 pieces of equipment comprise almost entirely federal excess personal property. Most of this equipment is not defensive articles or considered to be major equipment.

The withdrawal process continues; U.S. Central Command estimates that we have completed more than 95% of the entire withdrawal process. Also, the U.S. has officially handed over seven facilities to the Afghan Ministry of Defense.

On the other hand, former CIA chief David Petraeus warned that the decision by President Joseph Biden’s administration to withdraw troops from Afghanistan may, in view of the current situation, plunge Afghanistan into a civil war.

Speaking at an online conference organized by the Middle East Institute, Petraeus said, “We accomplished the mission that took us to Afghanistan in the first place and that actually kept us there afterward,” saying “this was about eliminating the sanctuary in which Al Qaeda planned the 9/11 attacks and conducted the initial training of those attackers.”

But his thoughts on the future were dire, “To draw down our forces the way we have in Afghanistan … I fear that it will usher back in a kind of very violent civil war that will result in millions of refugees, terrible loss of life and bloodshed, the targeting of those who helped us during our time in the country, and a variety of other challenges which will undoubtedly include the ability of Al-Qaeda and perhaps Islamic State (Daesh) to reestablish sanctuaries,” said Petraeus.

During the forum, Petraeus said that several years back there was a “sustainable commitment” of US troops in Afghanistan, and he noted that the US presence in Afghanistan provided a platform for regional counterterrorism efforts, such as operations in Pakistan. Taking stock of the past twenty years, Petraeus mentioned poor governance, large-scale corruption and political disunity were challenges that arose, and he acknowledged that the inconsistency of US policy was also a problem.

“There were missteps on the battlefield, there were certainly numerable cases of inadequate governing–all the way from the local to the national level, persuasive corruption was a huge issue over the years,” said Petraeus. “Political disunity has been an enormous frustration,” he said. Petraeus also mentioned the sanctuaries that the Taliban have in Pakistan as a major factor, saying: “Their sanctuaries in Pakistan, there is a reason the Taliban leadership is called the Quetta Shura, because it is located outside Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province in Pakistan, there is a reason that there is a Peshawar Shura again, and also the Haqqani network.”

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