Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley met with his NATO counterparts in Greece over the weekend to discuss cooperation on surveillance and potential airstrikes in Afghanistan, what the Pentagon calls “over the horizon capabilities.”
“We are going to talk about over the horizon capabilities and where allies think appropriate that they can make a contribution, we’re certainly open to that,” Milley told reporters ahead of the meeting. “There are opportunities where alliance members may choose to work closely with us on these over the horizon capabilities.”
After President Biden ordered the Afghanistan withdrawal at the end of April, Pentagon leaders were scrambling to try and maintain the ability to bomb Afghanistan by seeking basing agreements with neighboring Central Asian countries, such as Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. But the US failed to negotiate any agreements and now has to settle for flying surveillance and launching potential airstrikes in Afghanistan out of bases in the Gulf region or from aircraft carriers in the Arabian Sea.
Milley and other NATO military leaders say their goal in maintaining these “over the horizon capabilities” is to prevent terrorist groups from gaining a foothold. But the only group that appears to be active is ISIS-K, a sworn enemy of the Taliban. The Taliban has a clear interest in preventing further Western intervention in the country and has said they don’t need help from other countries to fight terrorist groups.
In June, the US started launching airstrikes in Afghanistan from outside the country. The last known US airstrike in Afghanistan was conducted on August 29th. The Pentagon initially claimed it killed an ISIS-K member, but due to media scrutiny, it had to admit it killed no ISIS fighters. Instead, 10 civilians, including seven children, were killed by the US drone strike.
The August 29th strike was just the latest civilian massacre in Afghanistan by the US. Earlier in August, US airstrikes that targeted Lashkar Gah destroyed a school and a health clinic, killing at least 20 civilians. If the US continues to bomb Afghanistan after the pullout, it’s almost a certainty that more civilians will be killed.