US Will Support Afghan Military From Afar After Pullout

Austin: US Wants 'over-the-horizon' capacity

It didn’t happen May 1, but whether September or July, the US military will eventually be leaving Afghanistan. When they do, it’s a cinch it will make fighting the war there a bit different, though officials are emphasizing they intend to do just that.

President Biden told Congress the US will retain “over the horizon capacity” for Afghanistan, while Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley also emphasized that US military engagements will happen “over-the-horizon.”

What that will look like isn’t clear, but it appears that beyond continuing to be on the hook for bankrolling the Afghan military, the US will be looking for some operational capability to bring in.

Officials downplayed the chances of the US getting any new bases near Afghanistan, which means that the UAE and Qatar are the closest, and clearly not close enough for a moment’s notice ground operation.

Which likely is a good thing. If the US had such new capabilities at their fingertips, they’d likely want to show them off, even if it means escalating tensions in the region.

That might mean that a perceived weakness will have the Pentagon reacting early and often at the first sign of trouble, however, hoping to get out in front of operations they otherwise would be unready for.

The goal of the peace deal, after all, is to end the war, not simply force the Pentagon to come up with some novel way to keep the war going while the combatants are parked someplace else.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of