A growing body of indicators point to Biden’s vaunted plan for a full Afghan troop exit by Sep.11 being anything but a true and full final “exit”. First, as we described earlier the Pentagon is thinking up ways to leave a significant security “footprint” which defense officials say is necessary to protect the sprawling embassy in Kabul. There’s also talk of “counterterrorism support” directed from outside the country, which is said to be one among a “range of options” to soon be presented to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
The Associated Press observed this week that “The number of American troops needed for the overall security missions inside Afghanistan will depend on a variety of requirements, and could range from roughly a couple hundred to a bit less than 1,000, officials said.” And of course, the CIA and other foreign intel agencies are scrambling to keep eyes and ears on the ground inside the country. On Wednesday, The New York Times reported the Pentagon is pursuing authorization to conduct airstrikes on the Taliban if it appears a major city like Kabul is about to fall to the group
This also as the WSJ wrote that “The Taliban are encircling Afghan police and army positions and encroaching on government-held territory, positioning themselves for large-scale offensives against major population centers while waiting for the last American troops to depart Afghanistan.”
To prevent this likely scenario of a Taliban takeover of much of the country after the US troop departure, the US Air Force would theoretically initiate Afghan aerial operations from one of its four major bases in the Gulf region, including two in Kuwait, and the others in Qatar and the UAE. This could also include use of drones to combat advancing Taliban insurgents against government areas.
Acting Air Force Secretary John Roth told a Senate hearing this week: “We have a series of air bases, they will stay for the time being, that’s where your over the horizon capability will come from,” according to Defense One. These statements alone will likely be interpreted by Taliban leaders to mean that in reality the US military will never truly “exit” the conflict-torn country.
Some in Congress see the new “options” for intervening post-withdrawal as but a recipe for continued war in America’s longest-running occupation…
No more airstrikes. No more war. Twenty years of military involvement in Afghanistan—the longest war in U.S. history—provides more than enough evidence that our weapons will not end this conflict, but they will add to the bloodshed and suffering. https://t.co/pF7rDHKw3u
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) June 10, 2021
Also on Tuesday the Pentagon said that its withdrawal efforts were ahead of schedule, already being over 50% accomplished. Prior to the ordered drawdown which the White House announced in April there were at least 2,500 US troops amid a broader 10,000 member NATO force. The Taliban had seen the change as reneging on the Trump deal which had set the full pullout deadline for May 1st, which has come and gone.
While so far there has not been the predicted large-scale assaults on remaining US troops and bases, there have been hundreds of Taliban attacks on Afghan national forces and civilians across the country.