The defense minister of the US-backed Afghan government in Kabul said the US-led international coalition might continue air support even after foreign troops withdraw from Afghanistan.
“The world has a commitment and agreement with us. When needed — if we want and need it — their air force will help us in areas where we need it,” said Defense Minister Asadullah Khalid, according to Afghanistan’s Tolo News.
As the US is withdrawing from Afghanistan, the Pentagon has made it clear that it wants to maintain the ability to bomb the country. While the US could launch airstrikes in Afghanistan from its bases in the Gulf region after the withdrawal, US military officials have said they are reconsidering positioning forces in other central Asian countries. But the US has no basing agreements with Afghanistan’s neighbors, and it doesn’t appear that progress is being made towards that end.
Either way, if the US or any of its allies gives Afghan forces air support after the withdrawal, the Taliban would see this as a clear violation of the Doha agreement, which paved the way for foreign troops to leave. If the Taliban believes the deal is being violated, the group would be less likely to continue peace talks with Kabul.
The US and NATO both plan to continue supporting the Afghan military financially and are considering training Afghan troops outside of the country. President Biden’s proposed $753 billion military budget includes a significant boost in aid for Afghan forces. The budget would give the Afghan military $3.3 billion in 2022, a $300 million increase from 2021.
Last week, a report from The New York Times said the US and coalition allies are on track to be out of Afghanistan by early to mid-July, well before President Biden’s September 11th deadline. The Pentagon has not confirmed the report, but Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said the withdrawal process is “slightly” ahead of schedule. While the pullout appears to be moving along, the US might try to leave a small troop presence under the guise of protecting its diplomatic mission.