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US adds 12 fighter jets to protect Afghanistan withdrawal

US adds 12 fighter jets to protect Afghanistan withdrawal
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The U.S. military has added a dozen F-18 fighter jets to the military assets it is sending to protect troops as they withdraw from Afghanistan, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark MilleyMark MilleyConcerns grow over China's Taiwan plans Overnight Defense: Austin and Milley talk budget, Afghanistan, sexual assault and more at wide-ranging Senate hearing Pentagon chief: Military has already started 'over-the-horizon' operations in Afghanistan MORE told reporters Thursday.

The F-18s are on top of the previously announced six B-52 bombers sent to Qatar and the extension of the deployment of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in the region, as well as elements of an Army Ranger team sent to Afghanistan.

U.S. officials are beefing up force protection measures amid Taliban threats to attack U.S. troops as they withdraw because the United States did not leave by a May 1 withdrawal deadline from a deal the insurgent group signed with the Trump administration last year.

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On Monday, the Pentagon said there had been some “small harassing attacks” over the weekend that had no effect on the withdrawal.

U.S. Forces Afghanistan also reported “ineffective indirect fire” at Kandahar Airfield on Saturday, which U.S. forces responded to with an airstrike that “destroy[ed] additional rockets aimed at the airfield.”

On Thursday, Milley said “there have been no attacks against U.S. and coalition forces” since the withdrawal began.

In general, he said so-called enemy-initiated attacks in Afghanistan have kept about the same pace of about 80 to 120 per day since the withdrawal started as they have for the past year.

Speaking alongside Milley, Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinConcerns grow over China's Taiwan plans Overnight Defense: Austin and Milley talk budget, Afghanistan, sexual assault and more at wide-ranging Senate hearing Austin says he's 'concerned' about Iranian ships in Atlantic MORE added that “the drawdown is going according to plan.”

U.S. Central Command reported Monday that the withdrawal was about 2 percent to 6 percent complete, including moving about 60 planeloads of material out of Afghanistan, identifying about 1,300 pieces of equipment to destroy and transferring one base in Helmand to Afghan army control.