AFGHANISTAN. Kabul: The United States will continue to carry out airstrikes to support Afghan forces facing attack from the Taliban, US Central Commander General Kenneth McKenzie said at a news conference in Kabul on Sunday evening.
“The United States has increased airstrikes in 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,” McKenzie said.
Meanwhile, McKenzie didn’t mention if the U.S airstrikes will continue after August 31 or not. The US military mission will come to an end in Afghanistan after 20 years.
“I still can’t say whether we will continue our airstrikes against the Taliban after our complete withdrawal. Because we will have forces here to maintain the security of our embassy.”
Earlier, Mckenzie was quoted saying that the U.S will not continue airstrikes after August 31 in a Washington Post report. “The United States will not support Afghan forces with airstrikes after the complete withdrawal at the end of August.”
The United States airstrikes have increased significantly in the recent days. At least four airstrikes were carried out on Wednesday and Thursday at the request of Afghan forces.
Taliban is rapidly gaining more territory including the majority of districts, ports, border crossings.
Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the militants had seized about half of the country’s 419 district centers.
The Taliban spokesman has also claimed that they have captured over 200 districts.
On Saturday, US airstrikes targeted the Taliban in Helmand and Kandahar, which killed Taliban fighters. The group confirmed afterward in a statement, calling it a violation of the Doha agreement signed between the U.S and the Taliban, and said it will have “serious repercussions” for international troops.
The Afghan President Muhammad Ashraf Ghani also met with US CENTCOM Commander Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, and discussed the priorities of the Afghan forces and support for them, the Presidential Palace said.
In his speech among Afghan forces, a week ago, he said he has organized a security plan for 6 months and that the Taliban has “deep ties” with other international terrorist groups. The Taliban group accused Ghani of “continuation of war,” saying, “Anything that happens in the next 6 months will be on Ghani.”
Meanwhile, the US and foreign forces are leaving Afghanistan at a time when the Taliban are advancing toward the major cities. The Afghanistan Interior Ministry recently announced night curfew in 31 provinces.
According to the Pentagon, US withdrawal is about 95 percent complete, and only 650 US service members will remain in Afghanistan to defend the U.S. Embassy and international airport in Kabul.