US launches airstrikes on Taliban to support Afghan forces
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The United States air force launched overnight airstrikes against the Taliban in Afghanistan, a move that reflects Washington’s intentions to continue supporting Afghan forces with combat aircraft until US forces withdraw next month.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby on Thursday would not provide further details about the strikes, including what type of aircraft was used.
"In the last several days, we have acted through airstrikes to support to the ANDSF," said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, referring to Afghan government forces. "We continue to... conduct airstrikes in support of the ANDSF," he told reporters at a press briefing, adding that head of the US Army Central Command (Centcom), General Kenneth McKenzie, had authorised the strike.
The strikes are the first known since Army General Scott Miller, America’s last four-star commander to serve on the ground in Afghanistan, stepped down from his role and returned to the United States.
In April, President Joe Biden ordered the full withdrawal of approximately 3,000 US troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, effectively ending America’s longest war. Last week, Biden gave an updated timeline and said that the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan will end by Aug. 31.
“We did not go to Afghanistan to nation build,” Biden has said. “It’s up to the Afghans to make decisions about the future of their country.”
At the Pentagon on Wednesday, the nation’s highest military officer told reporters that the US has completed more than 95% of the herculean task of withdrawing from Afghanistan. “The sheer volume of movement involved in this operation has been extraordinary,” said Chairman of the Joint Chiefs US Army Gen Mark Milley, adding that the US conducted more than 980 airlifts of cargo in less than three months.
“Furthermore, all the military operating bases, outside of Kabul, have been fully transferred to the Afghan Ministry of Defense and the Afghan security forces.”
Last week, the White House announced it will begin evacuation flights this month for Afghan nationals and their families who assisted U.S. and NATO coalition forces during America’s longest war.
In his presser, Kirby said he could not provide details on the latest airstrikes against the Taliban, but reiterated Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin's Wednesday statement that the United States remains "committed to helping the Afghan security forces and the Afghan government going forward."
US airpower has long provided Afghan forces with a tactical advantage against the Taliban -- one that many fear will be eroded by the withdrawal of international troops, though Afghanistan's own fledgling air force is flying into the breach.
Also on Wednesday, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, acknowledged the Taliban regime now controls about half of Afghanistan's roughly 400 districts, but added they had taken none of the country's densely populated main cities.
He said the US withdrawal, set to be finished by August 31, is now 95 percent complete.
The resurgent militants have pressed a sweeping offensive against government forces since May, amid the withdrawal of the American-led foreign forces.
A Taliban spokesman on Thursday told Russian media that the group now controlled 90 percent of Afghanistan's borders, but the claim could not be independently verified. The militants are known to exaggerate their battlefield claims.