As the Taliban is capturing provincial capitals and making significant territorial gains, US officials told The New York Times that President Biden still intends to complete the Afghanistan withdrawal by August 31st.
In the face of the Taliban gains, the US has stepped up airstrikes in Afghanistan, calling in B-52s and C-130 gunships, but it doesn’t seem to be slowing the offensive. The US warplanes are carrying out the bombings from bases and aircraft carriers in the Gulf region, what the Pentagon is calling “over the horizon capability.”
At this point, it’s not clear if the US airstrikes will continue after August 31st. There are currently about 650 US troops left in Afghanistan. One administration official told the Times that with only a small ground force, “a concerted air campaign was unlikely to undo the advances the Taliban had made.”
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby was asked about the situation in Afghanistan on Monday and said the fight was up to the Afghan government, signaling that the US won’t try much harder than it is to slow down the Taliban. “It’s their country to defend now. It’s their struggle,” he said.
On Friday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki defended Biden’s decision to continue the withdrawal. “The President made clear: After 20 years at war, it’s time for American troops to come home,” she said.
The US wants to keep a small presence in Afghanistan, and most of the 650 troops are expected to stay at the embassy in Kabul after Biden’s withdrawal deadline. But at the rate things are going, it’s possible the security situation could deteriorate enough for the US to abandon its diplomatic mission.