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World

US will not support Afghanistan forces with airstrikes after troop withdrawal, reports VOA

  • CENTCOM head says such an endeavor will only be pursued when attack plans have been discovered to strike US or its allies
Updated 15 Jun 2021

The US will not support Afghanistan forces with airstrikes after it withdraws its troops from the South Asian nation, and such an endeavour will only be pursued when attack plans have been discovered to strike the US or the homeland of its allies, the top US commander in the Middle East told Voice of America (VOA).

General Frank McKenzie, the commander of the US Central Command, said the reason for “any strikes that we do in Afghanistan after we leave” would be when the US uncovers someone who wants to attack the US, its allies and partners.

“That would be the reason for any strikes that we do in Afghanistan after we leave, (it) would have to be that we’ve uncovered someone who wants to attack the homeland of the United States, one of our allies and partners,” Gen. Frank McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command, was quoted as saying in VOA.  

Pressure on CIA as US withdrawal nears: NYT

The statement comes amid reports that in the absence of the US’s technical support, Afghanistan’s capacity to maintain security would be badly affected.  

McKenzie admitted that the US support for the Afghan air force will be slow “which could leave Afghan forces with limited air support.”  

“Risk will be greater, significantly greater,” McKenzie acknowledged during the interview to VOA.   John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction (SIGAR), recently cautioned that US contractors provide 100 percent of the maintenance for the Afghan air force’s Blackhawk helicopters and C-130 cargo planes.  

Similarly, a Pentagon report has warned that without contractor’s support “no Afghan airframe can be maintained as combat effective for more than a few months.”  

Frank’s assessment raises questions about the US’s ability to station its counterterrorism troops in the region, particularly in Pakistan. Resources to help Afghanistan will continue to be strained, he said, as US aircraft will fly from “bases thousands of kilometers away to gather intelligence and surveillance.”

The troop withdrawal has gathered attention in recent weeks with reports claiming that US authorities are in talks with neighbor Pakistan to establish air bases in the country as they continue to look for ways to plug security gaps.  

Pakistan, on its part, has continued to deny reports of any bases being, or in the process of being, established.