PENTAGON - The U.S. military has launched its first airstrikes against the Taliban in Afghanistan since President Barack Obama expanded the authorities under which U.S. troops can attack the insurgents.
Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook confirmed Friday that the strikes were carried out in the “southern portion of Afghanistan” under the new authorities. He said the strikes hit their intended target, though he would not elaborate.
“The goal,” Cook said of the strikes, “would be a strategic effect on behalf of the Afghan forces that we are enabling.”
This month, Obama expanded U.S. military involvement in the war-torn country to allow more airstrikes against the Taliban, as long as those strikes can help the Afghan offensive succeed.
Previously, U.S. commanders were authorized only to use airstrikes to protect U.S. forces on the ground, to protect Afghan forces when they face being overrun by the Taliban, or to go after the Islamic State or the remnants of al-Qaida.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter said at a defense technology summit on June 10 that the new authorities would allow the military to use force “in a better way."
There currently are 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. That number is set to decrease to 5,500 by the end of this year, according to the Obama administration’s policy.
The Afghan military has struggled in the battle against the Taliban since taking the lead from foreign troops in 2014.