Saturday December 04, 2021

US deploys dozens of jets for protection of withdrawing troops

May 08, 2021

WASHINGTON: The United States has deployed a dozen additional warplanes to bolster protection of American and coalition troops making a final withdrawal from Afghanistan as Taliban insurgents step up pressure on Afghan government forces, top Pentagon officials said Thursday.

Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said F-18 attack planes have been added to a previously announced package of air and sea power — including the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier in the North Arabian Sea and six Air Force B-52 bombers based in Qatar — that can be called upon as protection for withdrawing troops. Also part of that previously announced package are several hundred Army Rangers, reported US Military Times.

U.S. officials said before the withdrawal began that they expected the Taliban to attempt to interfere, even as the insurgents continue pressuring government forces, especially in Helmand and Kandahar provinces in southern Afghanistan. “There continue to be sustained levels of violent attacks” by the Taliban against Afghan security forces, Milley said, speaking alongside Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at a Pentagon news conference.

Meanwhile, the United States and the European Union called for an immediate resumption of intra-Afghan talks, and condemned the Taliban for waging widespread attacks as foreign forces leave the country.

Representatives of Washington, the EU, NATO and other European countries met Thursday in Berlin as US and other foreign forces have begun their withdrawal. The Berlin meeting concluded with a statement that “urged the immediate resumption, without pre-conditions, of substantive negotiations on the future of Afghanistan.” It also called on the Taliban to “stop their undeclared spring offensive.” “Any Taliban attacks on our troops during this period will be met with a forceful response,” the statement said.