After the US completed its military withdrawal from Afghanistan last week, President Biden threatened more airstrikes against the country’s ISIS affiliate, known as ISIS-K. According to a report from Politico, the Navy expects any future US airstrikes in Afghanistan to be launched from aircraft carriers in the North Arabian Sea.
The US has the power to bomb Afghanistan with planes based outside of the country, what the Pentagon calls “over the horizon capability.” Having aircraft carriers in the North Arabian Sea means shorter flights for US warplanes and drones than if they flew out of bases in Gulf nations.
“I think a lot of that mission is going to fall on the Navy,” a Navy official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Politico. With China now the Pentagon’s top priority, hawks in Washington want Navy resources to be focused on East Asia. The Navy official said the demand is a reason why the military branch should get more money.
“This is a great example of why we need more money to operate forward — things like this are what we’re built to do, but we need the funding and support to keep doing it, and that hasn’t always been there,” the official said.
The Japan-based aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan was deployed to the North Arabian Sea during the Kabul evacuation and is still in the region, along with the aircraft carrier USS Iwo Jima.
The last known US airstrike in Afghanistan was in Kabul on August 29th, which was carried out by a drone from outside the country, or “over the horizon.” The US claims the strike targeted ISIS-K, but witnesses on the ground said it killed 10 civilians, and the Pentagon has not disputed the account.
If the Navy continues the air war in Afghanistan, there will be many more civilian casualties. ISIS-K is also not a real threat to the US. The group is small and is a sworn enemy of the Taliban. For their part, the Taliban has said they don’t need help from the US or any other country to fight ISIS-K.