KABUL, Afghanistan, April 29 (UPI) -- Although the United States' military role is formally over, airstrikes against Taliban positions continue and U.S. troops remain in combat positions.
U.S. Special Operations troops, serving as advisors and trainers of struggling Afghan government forces, still unleash military operations against the Taliban, the New York Times reported Wednesday. Officials said NATO and U.S. forces conducted 52 airstrikes in March, targeting Taliban commanders in the most remote parts of Afghanistan, although the U.S. mission formally ended in December.
U.S. troops were sent to Kunar province to advise Afghan forces engaged in battles with Taliban, and drone strikes were ordered for "force protection" to aid those U.S. troops on the ground, two unidentified Western military officials said.
"They are putting guys on the ground in places to justify the airstrikes,' said one.
Gen. John F. Campbell, the leading U.S. commander in Afghanistan denied the accusations, noting he is within his authority to target any Taliban position threatening NATO or U.S. troops, or Afghan security forces.
"Washington is going to have to say what they say politically for many different audiences, and I have no issue with that. I understand my authorities and what I have to do with Afghanistan's forces and my forces. And if that doesn't sell good for a media piece then, again, I can't worry about it. Combat and war and transition, as you know, it's a very complex thing. For me, it's not black and white," Campbell said.
The United States is training Afghan forces which include a 15,000-man unit of commandos, modeled after the U.S. Army Rangers, sent to battles when the Afghan army cannot finish off the Taliban.