Gen. Scott Miller, who served as the top US commander in Afghanistan since 2018, transferred his authorities on Monday to Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of US Central Command (CENTCOM).
McKenzie now has the authority to bomb Afghanistan. Future airstrikes in the country will be launched from outside Afghanistan, either from bases or aircraft carriers in the Gulf region, what the Pentagon calls “over the horizon capabilities.”
The transfer of authority is part of the US withdrawal that President Biden said will be completed by August 31st, although the US plans to keep a troop presence at its embassy and at the international airport in Kabul.
The Pentagon has established an embassy-based military command structure called Forces Afghanistan-Forward that will be headed by Navy Rear Admiral Peter Vasely. The embassy command will be supported by a new Afghanistan-focused office based in Qatar.
The handover ceremony took place at the former headquarters for the NATO mission in Afghanistan. The headquarters are now part of the US embassy complex, which is a sprawling 36-acre facility. Most NATO countries have pulled all of their troops out of Afghanistan. According to Stars and Stripes, the only flags flying during Monday’s ceremony were that of the US, the UK, and Turkey.
Turkey is playing a vital role in Washington’s post-withdrawal plans. The US and Turkey worked out a deal that will leave Turkish troops in Afghanistan to secure the Kabul airport. The Taliban opposes a continued Turkish presence since the Doha agreement called for all foreign troops to leave the country.