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US Intensifies Airstrikes to Support Embattled Afghan Forces


A U.S. Navy handout photo of an F-35B Lightning II aircraft launched aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Essex as part of the F-35B's first combat strike, against a Taliban target in Afghanistan, July 23, 2021.

The U.S. military has increased airstrikes in support of Afghan security forces as the Taliban continues to gain ground across Afghanistan. A top U.S. general said the level of support would continue in the coming weeks, if needed.

Ever since the United States announced plans to withdraw from the country, Taliban forces have been taking over rural districts in Afghanistan

Now, a counter-offensive.

U.S. Gen. Frank McKenzie, who heads the U.S. Central Command that includes Afghanistan, was in Kabul Sunday to meet with senior Afghan officials, including President Ashraf Ghani.

“The United States has increased airstrikes in support of Afghan security forces in 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,” McKenzie said.

The Taliban have called these strikes a violation of the Doha agreement they signed with the Americans last year.

And the speed with which the Taliban has taken over territory over the last three months seems to have taken both Afghan and U.S. officials by surprise. The Taliban uploaded social media videos of Afghan soldiers surrendering in district after district, a huge blow to the morale of government forces.

In response, Ghani said his army has changed its strategy and will reallocate forces to protect urban areas. He said his plan would change the situation on the ground in the next three to six months.

And a change on the ground is exactly what is needed, according to Gen. McKenzie.

“The government of Afghanistan faces a stern test in the days ahead. The Taliban are attempting to create a sense of inevitability about their campaign. They’re wrong. There is no preordained conclusion to this fight,” McKenzie said.

The Afghan plan aims to concentrate forces around cities. McKenzie said the Taliban should expect to face fierce battles if they try to take them.

Pressed by journalists in Kabul, the head of CENTCOM refused to say whether the U.S. would continue airstrikes after August 31, the deadline for U.S. withdrawal.

He promised continuing logistical support to Afghan forces but noted that, on the ground, Afghan troops will have to carry out their own fight.

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