The US launched several airstrikes in Afghanistan against the Taliban this week, the Pentagon said on Thursday. The airstrikes were carried out in support of the Afghan government, which has been losing significant ground to the Taliban since the US started pulling troops out back in May.
“In the last several days we have acted, through airstrikes, to support the ANDSF [Afghan National Defense and Security Forces],” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters. He was asked about alleged airstrikes in Kandahar, but said, “I won’t get into technical details of those strikes.”
Since the US-Taliban peace deal was signed in February 2020, US airstrikes on the Taliban have declined, but they do happen. The US usually frames the airstrikes as being carried out in the “defense” of the Afghan government. For their part, the Taliban has refrained from attacking the US or other foreign troops since the agreement was signed.
This week’s airstrikes mark the first that the US admitted to since Gen. Scott Miller, the former top US commander in Afghanistan, handed his authority to Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of US Central Command. It’s also a sign that the US will continue bombing Afghanistan until at least August 31st, when President Biden said the withdrawal will be complete.
US airstrikes in Afghanistan are now being launched from outside the country, what the Pentagon has dubbed “over the horizon capability.” The US will maintain this capability after the withdrawal, so it’s possible that the US will continue bombing Afghanistan beyond September. The US also has plans to leave about 600 troops in the country that will be in Kabul to guard the embassy and the international airport.