US Doesn’t Know What to Do If the Taliban March on Kabul

To bomb, or not to bomb?

The Pentagon is considering seeking authorization to carry out airstrikes to support Afghan security forces if Kabul or another major city is in danger of falling to the Taliban, potentially introducing flexibility into President Biden’s plan to end the United States military presence in the conflict, senior officials said.

Mr. Biden and his top national security aides had previously suggested that once U.S. troops left Afghanistan, air support would end as well, with the exception of strikes aimed at terrorist groups that could harm American interests.

But military officials are actively discussing how they might respond if the rapid withdrawal produces consequences with substantial national security implications.

No decisions have been made yet, officials said. But they added that one option under consideration would be to recommend that U.S. warplanes or armed drones intervene in an extraordinary crisis, such as the potential fall of Kabul, the Afghan capital, or a siege that puts American and allied embassies and citizens at risk.

Any additional airstrikes would require the president’s approval. Even then, 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.

A potential fall of Kabul is the crisis most likely to lead to military intervention after U.S. troops leave, officials said. Intervening to protect Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second-largest city, would be far less certain, one official said. Encroaching [“Encroaching” on their own country.] Taliban forces have increasingly threatened several other urban hubs in almost every corner of the country in recent months.

The discussion suggests the degree of concern in Washington about the ability of Afghanistan’s military to hold off the Taliban and maintain control of Kabul and other population centers.

And it is the latest indication of the scramble by the United States to address the ramifications of Mr. Biden’s decision in April to order a full withdrawal — a goal that had eluded his two immediate predecessors, in part because of opposition from the military.

Whether to provide air support to Afghan security forces after U.S. troops pull out is one of several major questions about Afghanistan policy that the administration is grappling with as Mr. Biden prepares to meet NATO allies in Europe next week.

Also unresolved is how U.S. troops will carry out counterterrorism missions to prevent Al Qaeda and other militants from rebuilding their presence in Afghanistan, and how to allow Western contractors to continue to support the Afghan military. At the same time, the C.I.A. is under intense pressure to find new ways to gather intelligence and carry out counterterrorism strikes in the country.

With the Pentagon set to conclude the pullout of U.S. troops by early July, the Afghan military — created, trained and supplied in the image of the American military — is supposed to start defending the country on its own.

Senior American officials say that the immediate crumbling of the Afghan military is not a foregone conclusion. But there is little doubt that the Afghan forces are battered and at risk of being overwhelmed, especially if their commandos and air forces falter.

The United States is not likely to provide additional air support to Afghan forces in rural areas, many of which are already under Taliban control, the officials said. And even government enclaves around the country, which are already under siege, are unlikely to receive much military help from American warplanes, the officials said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid speaking publicly about internal administration discussions.

When Mr. Biden announced the withdrawal in April, he promised to support the Afghan government, including its security forces; but he appeared to indicate that the Afghans would be on their own militarily after American and NATO troops left this summer. “While we will not stay involved in Afghanistan militarily, our diplomatic and humanitarian work will continue,” he said at the time.

Officials said then that the United States would launch strikes in Afghanistan only for counterterrorism reasons, in case there was intelligence about efforts to attack American interests.

A spokesman for the White House’s National Security Council declined to comment on the options under discussion, saying the administration did not publicly discuss rules of engagement.

But officials say there appears to be some new flexibility in the interpretation of counterterrorism. They say a debate has risen in the administration over what, exactly, is the threshold for turmoil in Afghanistan that could lead to American airstrikes.

The discussion reflects lessons learned from the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq, which forced the Obama administration in 2014 to recommit troops and air cover to defend Iraqi cities as the group encroached on Baghdad. [Afer Obama administration itself created conditions for its rise by targeting Syria for regime change.]

Senior officials said that at the moment, that threshold looked like a looming fall of Kabul, a situation that would most likely require a signoff from the president before American warplanes — most likely armed MQ-9 Reaper drones but possibly fighter jets — provided air support to Afghan forces.

Afghan officials said they had been told by their American counterparts that the United States would also stop any takeover of major cities, a vague statement without any clear backing.

That support would be tough to maintain over any extended period.

“It’s a very hard thing to do,” said Gen. Joseph L. Votel, the former commander of United States Central Command. “It’s an operation to get aircraft to Afghanistan, especially if you’re having to come from the Gulf or an aircraft carrier. There is limited loiter time for them to do anything.”

There are already signs of the difficulties that the United States would face in sending crewed aircraft to carry out strikes after the withdrawal. As U.S. bases in Afghanistan close, it has left pilots with a conundrum: What if something goes wrong thousands of feet over Afghanistan?

Forward Operating Base Dwyer — a sprawling complex in the south with a sizable landing strip — is closing in weeks, if not days. At that point, U.S. aircraft will have only one viable American military base, Bagram, to divert to if they face a mechanical or other issue in flight. Bagram will shut down when the withdrawal is complete.

With restrictive rules of engagement that require hours of overhead surveillance before an American airstrike is authorized, Afghan forces have tried to compensate, launching 10 to 20 airstrikes a day. U.S. surveillance drones are providing a wealth of coordinates to the Afghan Air Force, but Afghan pilots and aircraft are facing burnout and maintenance issues that grow by the day as foreign contractors withdraw.

“Our policy should be to do everything possible, consistent with not having troops on the ground, to enable the legitimate Afghan government and security forces to hold on,” said Representative Tom Malinowksi, Democrat of New Jersey and a former State Department official.

Mr. Malinowski last month joined more than half a dozen other House Democrats and Republicans in urging Mr. Biden to provide an array of support to the Afghan government after American troops leave, including any information on impending Taliban attacks detected by U.S. surveillance aircraft and spy satellites.

Top American generals have acknowledged that the Afghan security forces could collapse in a year or two, or even a matter of months, after the departure of Western military support.

Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, offered reporters traveling with him last month a lukewarm statement about the abilities of the Afghan forces. After 20 years of war, thousands of casualties and huge sums of money spent on the Afghan military and police, he characterized them as “reasonably well equipped, reasonably well trained, reasonably well led.”

When pressed on whether he thought the Afghan forces could hold up, General Milley was noncommittal.

“Your question: The Afghan army, do they stay together and remain a cohesive fighting force, or do they fall apart? I think there’s a range of scenarios here, a range of outcomes, a range of possibilities,” he said. “On the one hand, you get some really dramatic, bad possible outcomes. On the other hand, you get a military that stays together and a government that stays together.

“Which one of these options obtains and becomes reality at the end of the day?” he said. “We frankly don’t know yet.”

When asked at a Pentagon news conference last month if Afghan cities were in danger of being overrun by the Taliban after American forces left, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III declined to say whether the United States would provide air support, saying it was a hypothetical situation.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the top U.S. diplomat leading peace efforts with the Taliban, issued last month what seemed to be a definitive statement on the matter.

“We will do what we can during our presence until the forces are withdrawn, to help the Afghan forces, including coming to their defense when they are attacked,” he told the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “But once we are out of Afghanistan, direct military support of Afghan forces such as strikes in support of their forces, that’s not being contemplated at this time.”

But three other American officials said the issue had not been resolved in high-level administration meetings on Afghanistan.

Source: The New York Times

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Pablo
Pablo
5 months ago

Well, well. After 21+ YEARS in Afghanistan, TRILLIONS of taxpayer dollars spent and even now, in 2021 the US War Machine has not succeeded in bringing Democracy to that Country. No matter how you feel about the US presence in Afghanistan, you have to wonder WHY hasn’t the US War Machine gained a Victory?? I am totally opposed to the US war in Afghanistan and always have been, Even so you have to question the competence level of the warmongers running the War in Afghanistan. After trillions of dollars and so many years trying, there should have been Total Victory LONG ago. But then, War is profitable. Then the question is, “Why do the American People tolerate this theft of their Money?

Jerry Hood
Jerry Hood
5 months ago
Reply to  Pablo

Satanic zioNazi/ ashkeNazi jews never seek any victory! Only dead goyim on both sides and big money laundering for Rat-child colony= IsRealHell in Palestine!!!

Helga Weber
Helga Weber
5 months ago
Reply to  Pablo

Yes, I wonder that too from afar, the people only get poorer in their own country because all the tax money goes who knows where. What did Putin say? The USA is on the same path as Russia was in the 80s.

Eddy
Eddy
5 months ago
Reply to  Pablo

Because it provides JOBS in the armament industry. Thus they can pay their mortgages and put food on the table. They have no concern whatever, for the people on the receiving end of their handy work.

Raptar Driver
Raptar Driver
5 months ago
Reply to  Pablo

They accomplished what they wanted.

edwardi
edwardi
5 months ago

Well after this stellar performance of the mighty US military machine, why not attack China next ? It will be a much bigger war so double good for business, and what could possibly go wrong ? Biden is now meeting with Putin to give him the good news, the US will attack China first and leave Russia on the back burner. Yes maybe it took 21 years but by golly They got the job done. US Generals are the best, they never quit no matter how many times things blow up in their face. Tenacious. With the extra 20 Billion Biden gave the Pentagon this year and the extra 20 Trump gave them last year, they are on their way to Victory !!

Jerry Hood
Jerry Hood
5 months ago
Reply to  edwardi

You eat too much hamburgers and have fried brains!!!

Eddy
Eddy
5 months ago
Reply to  Jerry Hood

You need to recognise sarcasm when you see it.

Helga Weber
Helga Weber
5 months ago
Reply to  edwardi

Totally right!!
The USA might end like Russia in the 80s

Last edited 5 months ago by Ottawahusky
Jerry Hood
Jerry Hood
5 months ago

ZioNazi USrael will change its dipers and wait for the mercy of Taliban fighters….

Helga Weber
Helga Weber
5 months ago

What security for the USA thousands of miles away?
20 years and nothing achieved, and now the military is thinking of new enemies like Russia and China? Good luck with that.

Jim Richardson
Jim Richardson
5 months ago

A rag tag but determined group of fighters wearing two dollar sandals has fought the “most mighty war machine in history” to a stand still. The U.S. should have learned from history but it didn’t. Alexander the Great, the British Empire, the Soviet Union and now the UMPH!! “Greatest War Machine in History” has failed to subdue these people. After George Bush who will be next fool to undertake the conquest of Afghanistan? This debacle along with the most stupid and insane decision …to invade Iraq based on a LIE…..will almost certainly be marked in history as the point at which the American Empire started its terminal decline.

yuri
yuri
5 months ago
Reply to  Jim Richardson

false
the USSR entirely defeated the muhjadin; Gorbachev the traitor, foolishly withdrew–a political decision

Jim Richardson
Jim Richardson
5 months ago
Reply to  yuri

That is irrelevant ….the Soviet Union still left and had to leave tons of its equipment behind. The U.S. won every battle in Viet Nam which is also irrelevant because it still lost the war. When an invader is pushed out it is a lost war. Afghanistan is unconquerable….Alexander the Great probably came closer than anyone to subduing it.

Jim Richardson
Jim Richardson
5 months ago
Reply to  Jim Richardson

Russia is also unconquerable….only maniacs think it is and only maniacs have attempted it. Napoleon and Hitler both tried and failed miserably. If the WEST tries again it will be a catastrophe for Western Civilization.

loongtip
Active Member
loongtip (@loongtip)
5 months ago
Reply to  Jim Richardson

The Yanks won NO battles in Vietnam and were hunted out with their tails between their legs and ALSO left tons of equipment behind!!
And the “most mighty war machine in history” can’t even defeat the Taliban that they supplied and paid in an attempt to “defeat” the Russians and have now come back and bitten the Yanks on the arse for the past 20+ years!!
The Yanks couldn’t fight their way out of a wet paper bag!

loongtip
Active Member
loongtip (@loongtip)
5 months ago
Reply to  loongtip

Here is a short summary of some of the many battles that the US DIDN”T win in Vietnam.

https://anti-empire.com/never-lost-a-battle-in-vietnam-not-true-the-us-lost-plenty/

yuri
yuri
5 months ago
Reply to  loongtip

jimmy cannot distinguish between leaving voluntarily and being “pushed out”

Eddy
Eddy
5 months ago
Reply to  loongtip

Agree totally with your comment, loongtip. That’s why they always choose a lesser competent nation, to in their language, guarantee victory. L.O.L. Can you imagine the floor wipe if they took on China or Russia with a very competent defence force ???L.O.L.Seriously though, if they couldn’t win in South Vietnam, and now after TWENTY YEARS in Afghanistan, how can anyone call their military a mighty military ???Maybe they need to clean house in the Pentagon from all the arse kissers there who continually give the wrong intelligence ????

Jim Richardson
Jim Richardson
5 months ago
Reply to  loongtip

I strongly suggest you read the history and comments of Viet Nam’s greatest ….General Giap. He himself told a US General later that “yes, you won the battles but we won the war”…..Read and study him. He is considered to be one of the greatest military generals of the Twentieth Century. Read his comments about the Tet Offensive..

yuri
yuri
5 months ago
Reply to  Jim Richardson

dimwit amerikan—US lost more than 200 battles in vietnam—a lengthy article on this website documented this…USSR left tons of what? stupidity from wikipedophilia? or CNN?

yuri
yuri
5 months ago
Reply to  Jim Richardson

for an uncivilized amerikan that only relinquishes colonies when forced—different for civilized nations that do not want colonies—USSR withdrew voluntarily from both Yugoslavia and Austria after WWII with zero fear from cowardly amerikans—that had nearly nothing to do w defeating either the Nazis or Japanese

Eddy
Eddy
5 months ago
Reply to  Jim Richardson

“Won every battle” ??? Judged on what ???

Jim Richardson
Jim Richardson
5 months ago
Reply to  Eddy

General Giap

tunamelt
tunamelt
5 months ago
Reply to  yuri

Kicked the Soviet’s ass!!!

Eddy
Eddy
5 months ago
Reply to  Jim Richardson

Funny you mention a rag tag group of determined fighters wearing two dollar sandals, reminds me of the sandals worn by the previous victors over the U.S. in Vietnam, where the locals could not afford even, the two dollar sandals, they made their sandals out of recycled car tires.Whilst the Mighty (????????) U.S. war machine was bogged down during the wet season, these determined people carried resupplies on their backs down the Ho Chi Minh trail to supply their troops. The U.S. Airforce was grounded, couldn’t bomb anyone, their heavy armour was also locked up in the bases, could go out, other wise they’d get bogged down in the mud. Meanwhile, the human feet kept on tramping thru rain, mud and sleet ensuring their ultimate well deserved victory.

yuri
yuri
5 months ago

“amerikans have always been genocidal enjoying killing from afar” Philip Slater
“the amerikan soul is hard isolate a killer”. DH Lawrence
“we are 300 million used car salesmen that have no qualms about killing anyone that makes us uncomfortable”. hunter Thompson

XSFRGR
XSFRGR
5 months ago

We’ve all seen this before haven’t we? Can we say, “South Vietnam” boys, and girls? Sometimes I wonder if the U$ is too evil to live (it is) or if the world is too stupid to live? Time will tell.

Eddy
Eddy
5 months ago

The “IRONY” is exquisit. Here we have the Yanks ILLEGALLY INVADING and OCCUPYING a foreign country, imposing upon them, their own laws, whilst at the same time, totally ignoring the Afghan people’s laws and traditions. Inserting a quisling puppet Government that could not survive without U.S. military backing it up. Outlawing the previous Government which just happened to be a Taliban Government. After TWENTY YEARS of manipulation, subjugation and genocide, the penny has finally dropped, that to maintain what they were doing was unsustainable. TWENTY years of ALLEGEDLY building an Afghan military based on the U.S.(Which has not been able to win an war since it’s Niacragua execercise) whether the Afghan people wanted it or not. Now the worry, it will collapse, and the rightful people, (Taliban, whether you like it or not) will once again Govern Afghanistan. So, what exactly was the genocidal war waged against this INNOCENT nation for ????????? Besides making shareholders Rich at the cost of millions of Afghani lives.

yuri
yuri
5 months ago

this is impentrable for the amerikan mind…”the Mindoro in Philippines and the Pygmys in Africa do not want human rights: they want to be left alone”. Paul Feyerabend

Raptar Driver
Raptar Driver
5 months ago

The answer is so simple.
Send your ambassador to the new government in Kabul.

Anti-Empire