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U.S. plans to continue Afghanistan airstrikes if Taliban attacks don't stop

By
Kyle Barnett
The United States announced Tuesday that its withdrawal from Afghanistan remains at 95%, but that heightened airstrikes against the Taliban to aid Afghan forces, some of whom are pictured, would continue for the time being. File Photo by M. Sadiq/EPA-EFE
The United States announced Tuesday that its withdrawal from Afghanistan remains at 95%, but that heightened airstrikes against the Taliban to aid Afghan forces, some of whom are pictured, would continue for the time being. File Photo by M. Sadiq/EPA-EFE

July 27 (UPI) -- The commander of U.S. Central Command said airstrikes in Afghanistan would continue as long as Afghan forces are being attacked by the Taliban as the U.S. military pulls out of the country.

CENTCOM commander Gen. Frank McKenzie noted the airstrikes in a visit to Kabul on Sunday, which comes as the U.S. military has pulled about 95% of troops and equipment out of the country.

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"The United States has increased airstrikes in the support of Afghan forces over the last several days, and we're prepared to continue this heightened level of support in the coming weeks if the Taliban continue their attacks," McKenzie said in a Tuesday CENTCOM press release.

"I reassured the government that we are continuing to provide airstrikes in defense of ANDSF forces under attack by the Taliban, contract logistics support both here in Kabul and over-the-horizon in the region, funding for them, intelligence sharing, and advising and assisting through security consultations at the strategic level," McKenzie said.

RELATED Pentagon: U.S. launched airstrikes on Taliban in support of Afghan forces

American troops began pulling out of the country earlier this year after 20 years of occupation, with the withdrawal process about 95% complete, according to CENTCOM.

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The number of troops and percentage of withdrawal in Afghanistan has stayed roughly similar over the last two weeks.

Tuesday's update shows that about 984 C-17 loads have been retrograded and more than 17,000 other pieces of equipment have been turned over to the Defense Logistics Agency for disposition.

RELATED U.N. report: Civilian casualties in Afghanistan at record level this year

The Taliban has seized 50% of the the country's territories as U.S. forces have receded and nearly 2,000 Afghan soldiers have fled the area.

Meanwhile, civilian casualties are at a 13-year high. As the the Taliban has taken ground in a series of offensive maneuvers the United Nations saw a 47% increase in civilian casualties.

Despite the Taliban's success Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said a Taliban takeover of the country was "not a foregone conclusion."

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The Taliban and Afghan government met for peace talks in mid-July.

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