US considering airstrikes if Kabul faces risk of falling to Taliban: NYT
Associated Press Of Pakistan
NEW YORK, Jun 10 — The US military is mulling whether to authorize airstrikes in Afghanistan if Kabul or other cities are in danger of falling to the Taliban, The New York Times reported Thursday, citing senior American officials.
The officials told the newspaper that military officials are actively discussing how to respond to potential consequences following the withdrawal of US troops, slated to be completed by September.
President Joe Biden and his administration had said previously that air support would also end, except for strikes that target terrorist groups that could impact American interests, the Times noted.
The officials said that decisions to potentially allow airstrikes following troop withdrawal haven’t been made yet, but one option now would be to recommend US warplanes or armed drones intervene in a major crisis, such as the fall of Kabul.
One official told the newspaper that intervening to help Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second-largest city, would be far less certain.
The US is not likely to provide additional air support to Afghan forces in rural areas, many of which are under Taliban control. Military help is also not likely at government enclaves across the country, the report said.
Additional airstrikes would require Biden’s approval, the Times noted.
Even then, the officials indicated that such air support would be hard to sustain over a lengthy period because of the enormous logistical effort that would be necessary given the American withdrawal.
The United States will leave all its air bases in Afghanistan by next month, and any airstrikes would most likely have to be launched from bases in the Persian Gulf.
The National Security Council declined to comment to the Times on the options being discussed.
The White House and the Pentagon have offered no comments on the report.
The report comes as the US military reaches the halfway point of withdrawing forces.
Biden said in April that all US troops would be withdrawn from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that sparked the conflict.
The president said at the time that the US would continue to provide humanitarian assistance and support peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban
Still, questions remained about how the US would handle threats from the region.
Concerns over a rise in violence have grown amid clashes between the Afghan military and the Taliban since Biden announced the withdrawal.
Biden is also under pressure to evacuate Afghans who helped US forces during the conflict and are at risk of being hunted by the Taliban.