Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on Monday that the US plans to keep supporting the Afghan military “financially” and is looking at the “contractual” needs of the Afghan security forces after President Biden’s planned troop withdrawal.
“We will continue a measure of financial support. One of the things that we want to look at is their contractual needs … particularly aviation maintenance support,” Kirby told reporters at a press briefing.
According to the latest numbers, there are about 16,832 Pentagon contractors in Afghanistan, including 6,147 who are US citizens. Last week, Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of US Central Command, said all US contractors will leave Afghanistan but left open the possibility of still paying other contractors with different nationalities to maintain equipment.
On Tuesday, US special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad told Congress that Washington is helping Kabul find replacements for the US contractors that are leaving. “The Afghans … with our help are looking for others to be able to provide that service to them,” he said. “We’re obviously very sympathetic to them to find alternatives.”
Kirby said McKenzie is expected to present a revised “drawdown” plan to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin that might address the presence of contractors.
Kirby also said at the briefing that the US would not give any operational support to the Afghan Air Force after the withdrawal, such as logistics or intelligence, and said the support would only be financial.
“The Afghan National Security and Defense Forces must be ready to assume their responsibility to defend their citizens and their country, our support to the Afghan will be primarily financially-based and certainly we are looking at how we can continue to support in a responsible way some of their contractual requirements,” he said.
Since President Biden broke the US-Taliban peace deal by extending the withdrawal deadline to September 11th, the Pentagon fears a resurgence of Taliban attacks and is deploying additional forces to Afghanistan.