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CENTCOM chief: No air support for Afghan forces after U.S. withdrawal

CENTCOM chief: No air support for Afghan forces after U.S. withdrawal
CENTCOM commander Gen. Frank McKenzie (L), shown aboard the USS Bataan, said the United States has no plans to provide air support for Afghan forces after the U.S. troops withdrawal from Afghanistan. Photo by Sgt. Roderick Jacquote/U.S. Marine Corps

June 14 (UPI) -- The United States has no plans to support forces in Afghanistan with airstrikes after its troop withdrawal, the U.S. Central Command chief said in an interview published Monday.

Gen. Frank McKenzie told Voice of America that any counterterrorism actions would be limited to situations involving discovery of plans to attack homelands of the United States or allies.

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"That would be the reason for any strikes that we do in Afghanistan after we leave. [It] would have to be that we've uncovered someone who wants to attack the homeland of the United States, one of our allies and partners," McKenzie said the interview.

In April, President Joe Biden ordered U.S. troops to be withdrawn from Afghanistan by Sept. 11. On June 1, the U. S. Central Command said the withdrawal was 30% to 44% complete, with six facilities officially transferred to the Afghan Ministry of Defense.

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McKenzie's comments affirm that United States will not continue to provide air support if Kabul or another major city falls to the Taliban after U.S. troops depart. His remarks follow a New York Times report last week that the Pentagon was considering pursuit of authorization to carry out airstrikes, potentially complicating Biden's plan.

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U.S. officials have said terrorism threats in Afghanistan can be handled with counterterrorism launches from outside the country, known as over-the-horizon operations, but procedures for conducting those operations have not been formalized, senior officials told the Times.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told the Senate Armed Services Committee last week that support of Afghan forces after the withdrawal "will be very difficult to do because our capabilities [in Afghanistan] will have diminished."

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