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U.S. airstrikes continue against the Taliban amid troop withdrawal

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A picture taken on January 13, 2020, during a press tour organised by the US-led coalition fighting the remnants of the Islamic State group, shows US army drones at the Ain al-Asad airbase in the western Iraqi province of Anbar.

Ayman Henna | AFP | Getty Images

WASHINGTON – The United States will maintain a steady drumbeat of airstrikes in Afghanistan as foreign forces exit the country amid rapid battlefield advances by the Taliban.

“The United States has increased airstrikes in the 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,” wrote U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Frank McKenzie in a statement.

Mckenzie, the combatant commander who oversees America’s wars in the Middle East, told Afghan President Ashraf Ghani over the weekend that the U.S. would continue to provide airstrikes but made no promise about what will happen after Aug. 31.

Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr., commander of the U.S. Central Command testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee during its hearing on the “U.S. Central Command and U.S. Africa Command in review of the Defense Authorization Request for FY2022 and the Future Years Defense Program in Washington on Thursday, April 22, 2021.

Caroline Brehman | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images

“I reassured the government that we are continuing to provide airstrikes in defense of ANDSF forces under attack by the Taliban, contract logistics support both here in Kabul and over-the-horizon in the region, funding for them, intelligence sharing and advising and assisting through security consultations at the strategic level,” McKenzie wrote.

Last week, the Pentagon confirmed media reports of overnight airstrikes against the Taliban in Afghanistan. Defense Department spokesman John Kirby would not provide further details about the strikes, including what type of aircraft was used.

The strikes reflect Washington’s intentions to continue supporting Afghan forces with combat aircraft until U.S. forces withdraw next month.

In April, President Joe Biden ordered the full withdrawal of approximately 3,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, effectively ending America’s longest war. Earlier this month, Biden gave an updated timeline and said that the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan will end by Aug. 31.

U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General. Mark Milley participates in a news briefing at the Pentagon May 6, 2021 in Arlington, Virginia.

Alex Wong | Getty Images

Last week, the nation’s highest military officer told reporters that the U.S. has completed more than 95% of the massive withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The Pentagon has airlifted more than 980 loads of equipment out of Afghanistan and handed over seven facilities to the Afghan Ministry of Defense, according to the latest update from Central Command.

In another symbolic end to America’s military presence in the country, U.S. Army Gen. Scott Miller, the last four-star commander to serve on the ground in Afghanistan, stepped down from his role and returned to the United States.

The removal of U.S. and coalition forces coupled with substantial Taliban gains have stoked concerns that the nation will once again succumb to terrorist organizations.

A new United Nations report found an uptick in civilian casualties in Afghanistan beginning in the first few months of 2021. According to the report, more than 2,300 civilian casualties were recorded in May and June, a figure that nearly trumps the combined total from the previous four previous months.

Earlier this month, the Biden administration announced the beginning of evacuation flights for Afghan nationals and their families who assisted U.S. and NATO coalition forces during America’s longest war.

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