The US Secretary of Defense said Afghan forces “will play a major role in stopping the Taliban” as the group escalates its attacks.
US forces in Afghanistan and their NATO partners are currently focused on withdrawing their troops, which should be completed by September 11, and then the priority will shift to helping Afghan security forces “on the other. side, ”senior US military officials said Thursday.
“The Afghan security forces will play a major role in stopping the Taliban and I know that we, what we see unfold is what we expected to deploy – increased pressure,” the US secretary said. to Defense Lloyd Austin.
There have been around 80 to 100 Taliban attacks on Afghan troops every day over the past year, while there have been none against US forces, said General Mark Milley, chairman of the United States. US staff, alongside Austin during a Pentagon briefing.
The US withdrawal is part of an agreement signed by the administration of former US President Donald Trump and the Taliban in February 2020 that mandated foreign forces would leave Afghanistan in exchange for security guarantees by the Taliban, and that the group would negotiate with Afghan elected officials. government.
US officials and the Afghan government have alleged that the Taliban did not delay their part of the deal. According to the agreement, the withdrawal was to be complete by May 1. Last month, US President Joe Biden abandoned a conditional approach to the conflict and ordered all military forces to leave by September 11, Al Qaeda’s 20th anniversary. attacks on Washington and New York that sparked the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
So far, the US military has closed a base in Helmand province, the equivalent of 60 transport planes have left the country and 1,300 pieces of equipment will either be destroyed or donated to the Afghan National Security Forces ( ANSF), Milley said.
Taliban fighters on Thursday captured a key dam in southern Kandahar province that provides irrigation, electricity and drinking water, the latest in a series of group attacks, including an offensive in Helmand province, since May 1.
American contractors will also withdraw with the troops, which could hamper the young Afghan air force. Milley said he currently conducts 80 to 90 percent of all air raids in support of Afghan ground forces. The bulk of the maintenance of its planes and helicopters is carried out by international contractors, and how to continue to service without them is “one of the key questions,” Milley said, “it will depend on the conditions and safety conditions on the site. field. “
“The intention is to keep the Afghan Air Force in the air and provide them with ongoing maintenance,” Milley said.
He also said that the “terrible predictions” of a Taliban victory or the fall of Kabul are “not a given.”
Once the withdrawal is complete, the United States will continue to support Afghan forces with funding and logistics based outside the country, Austin said.
“We will remain partners with the Afghan government, the Afghan army, and we certainly hope that with our continued support the Afghan security forces can be effective. They have a pretty big capacity, but it’s okay, we expect it to be a challenge, ”said Austin.