U.S. carried out airstrikes in Afghanistan, says Pentagon

The Taliban in recent days swept across Afghanistan, pushing back the Afghan military and taking over significant swaths of territory as the U.S. nears the ends of its withdrawal.

July 23, 2021 09:35 am | Updated 09:52 am IST - Washington

U.S. Marine General Kenneth McKenzie

U.S. Marine General Kenneth McKenzie

The U.S. carried out airstrikes across Afghanistan in the last several days as part of an effort to support the Afghan security forces fighting Taliban insurgents, the Pentagon has said. The news of U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan came a day after America’s most senior military officer admitted that the Taliban had gained “strategic momentum,” with their forces now controlling about half of Afghanistan’s more than 400 district centres.

The Pentagon, however, refrained from giving any specifics of its airstrikes in Afghanistan.

“Without speaking to specifics, I can say that in the last several days, we have acted through airstrikes to support the ANDSF (Afghan National Defense and Security Forces) but I won’t get into tactical details of those strikes,” Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby told reporters on Thursday at a news conference in Washington.

“But we continue to be able to and we continue to, as the Secretary said yesterday, conduct airstrikes in support of the ANDSF,” he said.

The commander of U.S. forces in the region, Central Command’s General Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie, would retain the authority to call for airstrikes in support of Afghan forces until the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan was complete.

According to a defence official, the U.S. military has carried out approximately six or seven strikes in the past 30 days, mostly using drones to launch the strikes, CNN reported.

A U.S. defence official on Thursday said that the strikes targeted “captured military equipment that the Taliban [were] able to seize from the ANDSF,” the Voice of America reported.

“There were enemy forces, enemy personnel targeted” alongside the captured equipment, the official added, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the information.

The Taliban in recent days swept across Afghanistan, pushing back the Afghan military and taking over significant swaths of territory as the U.S. nears the ends of its withdrawal.

U.S. Central Command, which is in charge of Afghanistan, said recently that the withdrawal of U.S. forces is more than 95% complete.

U.S. President Joe Biden has said the withdrawal would be complete by the end of August.

Approximately 650 troops are set to remain in the country to secure the U.S. diplomatic presence in Afghanistan, including the embassy, and to assist in securing Kabul’s international airport, which is a necessary facility for the movement of diplomats.

General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Wednesday that Taliban forces were putting pressure on 17 of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals.

“There’s a possibility of a complete Taliban takeover or a possibility of any number of other scenarios, breakdown, warlordism, all other kinds of scenarios that are out there. We’re monitoring very closely, I don’t think the end game is yet written,” he said.

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