Pentagon: ‘Small harassing attacks’ in Afghanistan not affecting withdrawal
U.S. forces saw some “small harassing attacks” in Afghanistan over the weekend, but the attacks had no effect on the U.S. withdrawal from the country, the Pentagon said Monday.
“What we’ve seen are some small harassing attacks over the course of the weekend that have not had any significant impact, certainly not on our people or our resources there, and bases,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters Monday.
Afghanistan has been bracing for violence as all U.S. and NATO troops withdraw from the country after 20 years, in line with President Biden’s order for a full U.S. withdrawal by Sept. 11.
The Taliban has threatened to renew attacks on U.S. and coalition forces amid the withdrawal. Even as the insurgents kept up a high pace of attacks on Afghan forces over the last year, it has largely refrained from attacks on U.S. and coalition troops since signing a withdrawal agreement with the Trump administration last year.
But the agreement called for a full U.S. withdrawal by this past Saturday, and the Taliban has said failure to meet that deadline means it will “take every counteraction it deems appropriate against the occupying forces.”
U.S. officials have warned they will respond to any threat against U.S. forces. The military has deployed four B-52 bombers to the region and extended the deployment of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier to provide force protection during the withdrawal. Elements of an Army Ranger task force are also deploying to Afghanistan to help protect withdrawing troops.
On Saturday, U.S. Forces Afghanistan reported “ineffective indirect fire” at Kandahar Airfield in which no injuries or damage to equipment was reported. The U.S. responded with an airstrike that “destroy[ed] additional rockets aimed at the airfield,” U.S. Forces Afghanistan spokesperson Col. Sonny Leggett tweeted.
“A return to violence would be one, senseless and tragic,” Gen. Scott Miller, the top U.S. general in Afghanistan, said in a video tweeted by Leggett in a thread on the Kandahar incident. “But make no mistake, we have the military means to respond forcefully to any type of attacks against the coalition, and the military means to support the Afghan security forces. That would be a mistake to move in that direction.”
In his comments Monday, Kirby appeared to allude to the Kandahar incident, telling reporters that “you’ve also seen over the course of the weekend that Gen. Miller certainly has at his disposal response options to make sure that he’s protecting our troops and our people.”
“So we’ve seen nothing thus far that has affected the drawdown or had any significant impact on the mission at hand in Afghanistan,” Kirby said.