The U.S. military revealed Wednesday that it had launched a series of airstrikes against several targets in Afghanistan to support the government in Kabul in its fight against Taliban insurgents, even with President Biden’s withdrawal order nearly completed.
Pentagon officials would not discuss details of the strikes, the first since operations in Afghanistan were handed over to U.S. Central Command. They did say Marine Corps Gen. Frank McKenzie, who now oversees all military operations in the Middle East, has the authority to launch such missions.
Even with the U.S. and foreign troop withdrawal from Afghanistan largely completed, U.S. officials insist the military can launch aircraft from other locations in the Middle East, including aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf. The U.S. launched the airstrikes after the radical Islamist insurgency scored major battlefield gains against the armies of the U.S.-backed Kabul government.
Another Department of Defense official later told The Associated Press that the U.S. conducted more than four airstrikes Wednesday and Thursday to support Afghan forces. At least two missions were directed at military hardware that the Taliban had taken from Afghan forces.
At a press conference Wednesday, Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Afghanistan‘s military forces have the capacity to defend their country, with the U.S. providing “over the horizon” support.
“We will continue to support the Afghan security forces where necessary in accordance with the guidance from the president and the secretary of defense,” Gen. Milley said. “The future of Afghanistan is squarely in the hands of the Afghan people.”