Top US general won't rule out airstrikes against Taliban after withdrawal

Top US general won't rule out airstrikes against Taliban after withdrawal
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Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr., the head of U.S. Central Command, on Sunday declined to commit to ending airstrikes against the Taliban by the Aug. 31 deadline that has been set by officials.

“I’m just not going to be able to comment about the future of U.S. airstrikes after Aug. 31,” McKenzie told reporters following a meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, The New York Times reports.

“For the days and weeks ahead, we will continue with our airstrikes in support of our Afghan partners, and that’s all I’ll be able to give you,” he said.

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McKenzie added that he was "concentrating on the here and now,” and said "logistical support" would go beyond July.

The Times reported McKenzie said that the U.S. would continue providing a “heightened level of support in the coming weeks if the Taliban continue their attacks.”

“We’re taking airstrikes as we need to take them,” McKenzie told reporters. “We’re still carrying them out. I think we’re having good effect in support of Afghan forces that are engaged in close fighting with the Taliban.”

McKenzie's comments on Sunday appear to go beyond what other defense officials have recently said, the Times notes.

Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — The Quad confab Top State Dept. official overseeing 'Havana syndrome' response leaving post Pentagon 'aware' of reports Wisconsin military base's struggle to feed, heat Afghan refugees MORE said last week that the U.S. military would be focusing on counterterrorism strikes against al Qaeda and ISIS after August.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark MilleyMark MilleyOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — The Quad confab Top Foreign Affairs Republican seeks declassification of Afghan intel Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Defense bill takes center stage MORE, acknowledged last week that the Taliban had taken over large swaths of Afghanistan, but expressed confidence in the country's military in its ability to protect itself against a total takeover.

The Taliban has taken over much of Afghanistan since the U.S. began its withdrawal from the country. The U.S. last week carried out to two airstrikes against the Taliban, targeting captured equipment.

The Taliban also vowed last week that there would no peace in Afghanistan unless Ghani is removed from power.