The U.S. defense secretary said Afghan forces would “play a key role in stopping the Taliban” as the group intensifies attacks.
The current focus on US forces in Afghanistan and their NATO partners is set to end with the withdrawal of their troops by September 11, but the priority will be to help the Afghan security forces “on the horizon,” top US military officials said Thursday.
“Afghan security forces will play a key role in stopping the Taliban, and I know what we are revealing is that we expect to increase the pressure -” said Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
There have been about 80-100 Taliban attacks on Afghan troops over the past year, not much against the US military, General Mark Millie, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Pentagon briefing.
The agreement, signed by former US President Donald Trump and the Taliban administration in February 2020, says foreign troops will leave Afghanistan in exchange for security guarantees for the Taliban and the government will negotiate with the elected Afghans.
U.S. officials and the Afghan government have complained that the Taliban did not participate in the deal. According to the agreement, the withdrawal was due to end on May 1. Last month, US President Joe Biden abandoned the terms of the conflict and ordered all troops to withdraw by September 11 on the 20th anniversary of al-Qaeda. In 2001, the US-led invasion of Afghanistan began with the invasions of Washington and New York.
Millie said so far the U.S. military has closed a base in Helmand province, the equivalent of 600 transport planes has left the country and 1,300 pieces of equipment will be destroyed or handed over to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), Millie said.
On Thursday, Taliban fighters seized a main dam in the southern province of Kandahar that provides irrigation, electricity and drinking water, the latest. A series of group attacksIncluding offensive in Helmand province from 1 May
U.S. contractors will also withdraw troops, which could hamper the Afghan Air Force. Millie said it currently carries out 80-90 percent of all airstrikes in support of the Afghan ground forces. “One of the key questions is how much of the maintenance on his planes and helicopters is done by international contractors and how to proceed without them,” Millie said. “It will depend on the ground conditions and safety conditions.” ”
“The purpose is to keep the Afghan Air Force in the air and provide for their continued maintenance,” Millie said.
He added that the “terrible prediction” of Taliban victory or the fall of Kabul would be “not the conclusion of the forecast”.
Once the withdrawal is over, the United States will continue to provide funds and supplies to Afghan forces outside the country, Austin said.
“We will continue to partner with the Afghan government, with the Afghan army, and we certainly hope that with our continued support, the Afghan security forces can be effective. They have a great significance, but as it goes, we hope it will become a challenge, ”Austin said.