The US Secretary of Defense said that Afghan forces “will play a major role in stopping the Taliban” as the group escalates its attacks
US military officials said on Thursday that the current focus of US forces in Afghanistan and their NATO partners is the withdrawal of their forces, due to be completed by September 11, and then the priority will shift to helping Afghan security forces “from beyond the horizon.”
“The Afghan security forces will play the primary role in stopping the Taliban, and I know we, what we’re seeing unfold is what we expected – increased pressure,” said US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
General Mark Milley, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, along with Austin in a Pentagon briefing, said about 80-100 Taliban attacks against Afghan forces every day during the past year, while there was no attack against US forces.
The American withdrawal is part of a deal signed by the administration of former US President Donald Trump and the Taliban in February 2020, which provides for the mandated foreign forces to leave Afghanistan in exchange for security guarantees from the Taliban, and for the group to negotiate with the elected Afghan. Government.
US officials and the Afghan government claimed that the Taliban had not delayed their stake in the agreement. According to the agreement, the withdrawal was supposed to be completed on May 1. Last month, US President Joe Biden abandoned a conditions-based approach to the conflict and ordered all military forces out by 9/11, the twentieth anniversary of al Qaeda. Attacks on Washington and New York that started the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
Milli said that the US military has so far closed a base in Helmand province, and the equivalent of 60 transport aircraft have left the country, and 1,300 pieces of equipment will be destroyed or handed over to the Afghan National Security Forces.
On Thursday, Taliban fighters took control of a major dam in the southern province of Kandahar that provides irrigation, electricity and drinking water, the latest in a series of group attacks, including one in Helmand province, since May 1.
US contractors will also withdraw with the forces, potentially hampering the nascent Afghan air force. Milli said it currently carries out 80-90 percent of all air strikes in support of Afghan ground forces. Milley said that the bulk of the maintenance on its aircraft and helicopters is done by international contractors, and how to continue maintenance without it is “one of the main questions,” “It will depend on the security conditions and conditions on the ground.”
“The intent is to keep the Afghan air force in the air, and to provide it with constant maintenance,” Milley said.
He also said that “pessimistic expectations” of a Taliban victory or the fall of Kabul “is not a foregone conclusion.”
Once the withdrawal is complete, Austin said, the United States will continue to support Afghan forces with financing and logistics outside the country.
“We will remain partners with the Afghan government and the Afghan army, and we certainly hope through our continued support that the Afghan security forces will be effective. They have a very large capacity, but we expect this to be a challenge,” Austin said.