Carrying out airstrikes against terrorist hideouts in Afghanistan without a US troop presence in the country will be difficult but “not impossible”, the commander of US Central Command General Frank McKenzie said on Tuesday.
Speaking to the House Armed Services Committee, McKenzie said he is in the midst of “detailed planning” for options for so-called “over the horizon” forces, or forces positioned elsewhere in the region that could continue counterterrorism strikes in Afghanistan.
He said he plans to give Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin those options by the end of the month.
“If you leave Afghanistan and you want to go back in to conduct these kinds of operations, there are three things you need to do: you need to find the target, you need to fix the target, and you need to be able to finish the target,” McKenzie said.
“The first two require heavy intelligence support. If you’re out of the country, and you don’t have the ecosystem that we have there now, it will be harder to do that. It is not impossible to do that.”
McKenzie’s testimony comes almost a week after President Joe Biden announced he was withdrawing all US troops from Afghanistan and that they would all be home by September 11 – the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States.
According to The Hill, Biden’s decision came despite repeated statements from US military officials that the Taliban was not yet upholding its end of a deal made during the Trump administration to reduce violence and break from al-Qaeda, as well as warnings about the potential for chaos in Afghanistan that could allow an al-Qaeda resurgence should US troops withdraw.
Meanwhile, McKenzie’s comments about the difficulty of intelligence gathering without a troop presence echo comments last week from CIA Director William Burns, who told senators the ability to collect intelligence on threats in Afghanistan will “diminish” with a US military withdrawal, the Hill reported.
On Tuesday, McKenzie also said he continues to have “grave doubts” about the Taliban’s reliability in upholding its commitments under the deal signed last year.
McKenzie declined to tell lawmakers how he advised Biden as the president deliberated the withdrawal, but said he had “multiple opportunities” to provide Biden with his perspective.
The Hill reported that speaking broadly about options to continue strikes once US troops leave, McKenzie said surveillance drones could be positioned in a place where they can reach Afghanistan “in a matter of minutes” or ”perhaps much further away.”
“We will look at all the countries in the region, our diplomats will reach out, and we’ll talk about places where we could base those resources,” he said.
“Some of them may be very far away, and then there would be a significant bill for those types of resources because you’d have to cycle a lot of them in and out. That is all doable, however.”
Right now, McKenzie added, the United States does not have any basing agreements with Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan or other countries surrounding Afghanistan.
McKenzie also said there are a “variety of ways” to strike targets, including long-range precision fire missiles, manned raids or manned aircraft.
“There are problems with all three of those options, but there’s also opportunities with all three of those options,” he said.
“I don’t want to make light of it. I don’t want to put on rose-colored glasses and say it’s going to be easy to do. I can tell you that the U.S. military can do just about anything. And we’re examining this problem with all of our resources right now to find a way to do it in the most intelligent, risk-free manner that we can.”
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley are also scheduled to brief the full House and Senate behind closed doors later Tuesday on Biden’s plan for Afghanistan.
Kabul residents come out en mass in support of security forces
Thousands of Kabul residents took to the streets of the city at 9pm on Tuesday night chanting slogans, including Allahu Akbar (God is Great), in support of the Afghan security forces who are battling the Taliban on multiple fronts across Afghanistan.
In addition to chanting slogans, residents waved the country’s flag, showing support for the republic system and the government forces.
Thousands more stood on the roofs of their houses and collectively raised their voices while others shouted out the windows of apartment blocks.
Just one hour earlier, however, the city was rocked by a car bomb that exploded outside the acting defense minister, Bismillah Mohammadi’s house in Sherpur in the center of Kabul.
But the explosion spurred people on to come out in their droves to show their support for the country’s troops – some of whom were still fighting militants who had stormed Mohammadi’s residence after the explosion.
Nangarhar residents also joined in and took to the streets in Jalalabad on Tuesday night, while Herat residents started the movement on Monday night.
The show of support comes a day after President Ashraf Ghani addressed a joint session of the upper and lower houses of parliament, the Meshrano Jirga and the Wolesi Jirga, on Monday and called on MPs and Senators to use their influence to mobilize the country to stand by the security forces.
Car bomb detonated outside acting defense minister’s home in Kabul
Militants targeted the acting minister of defense, Bismillah Mohammadi’s house in the center of Kabul on Tuesday evening after detonating an explosives-laden car.
The explosion in Sherpur area, in PD10, ripped through the city at about 8pm.
According to officials, after the explosion, assailants stormed Mohammadi’s house. They said Mohammadi was safe but there were casualties among his bodyguards.
However, details have not yet been released.
Meanwhile, sources told Ariana News that at least ten people were wounded in the explosion and had been taken to hospital.
Security forces have been deployed in the area and are reportedly still engaged in a gun battle with the assailants.
No group has immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.
Former vice-president Younus Qanuni meanwhile said in a voice message that Mohammadi was not at home at the time of the attack and “his family members were evacuated from the attack scene.”
Govt rolls out curfew in 31 provinces to curb Taliban activities
The Afghan government announced Saturday it has imposed a curfew in 31 provinces around the country in a bid to curb Taliban activity.
According to the Ministry of Interior’s deputy spokesman Ahmad Zia Zia, the curfew will come into effect immediately and will be enforced from 10pm to 4am.
Kabul, Nangarhar and Panjshir provinces are the only three that have been exempt.
“Based on the security [situation] officials announced a curfew in 31 provinces; the decision was taken to prevent Taliban activities,” said Zia.
Meanwhile, residents of Kapisa province said that a number of families have been displaced due to clashes between Afghan forces and Taliban in Nijrab, Alasay and Tagab districts.
“Due to the war between ANDSF and Taliban in Nijrab, Alasay and Tagab districts, many of the residents of the districts have been displaced. We want to know what government intends to do about this,” said Shamila Mashal, a civil society activist.
In addition to these districts, heavy clashes have been ongoing between ANDSF and Taliban in Ghazni, Wardak, Takhar, Kunduz, Kunar, Laghman, Herat, Helmand and Nimruz provinces.
Eight killed in car bomb outside acting defense minister’s house
Anti-corruption efforts need to be stepped up: UN report
Security Council condemns attack on UN compound in Herat
Blinken expresses concern over escalation of violence by Taliban
Taliban seek ‘lion’s share of power’ in deadlocked peace talks: Khalilzad
US slips out of Bagram silently without notifying new commander
Taliban says it controls 85% territory of Afghanistan
US military withdrawal from Afghanistan more than 90% complete
Haitian president shot dead at home overnight: PM
Taliban ‘targeting’ Afghan pilots to bring down air force: Reuters report
Morning News Show Part 1: President Ghani’s warning to Taliban discussed
Morning News Show: Drop in trade volume between Afghanistan and Pakistan discussed
Response: Exclusive interview with David Martinon, French Ambassador to Afghanistan
Zerbena: Three-day exhibition of handicrafts and domestic products held in Kabul
Sola: Doha talks, intensified clashes discussed
Latest News5 days ago
Four killed as wildfires sweep Turkey, villages evacuated
Latest News5 days ago
20 villages cleared of Taliban, 4 militants arrested in Takhar operation
Latest News5 days ago
Airlift begins for Afghans who worked for US during its longest war
Latest News5 days ago
UN office attacked in Herat, at least one guard killed
Latest News4 days ago
Watchdog reports of growing number of revenge attacks
Latest News3 days ago
Iran denies involvement in attack on Israeli-managed tanker off Oman
Latest News3 days ago
Kandahar Airport cancels flights after rocket attack
Latest News2 days ago
US and UK accuse Taliban of possible war crimes