US will continue airstrikes in support of Afghan forces fighting the Taliban

Photo: AP In this June 23, 2021 file photo, Afghan militiamen join Afghan defense and security forces during a gathering in Kabul to mobilize local militias across the country to try to stem the tide of the latest Taliban gains.

The US will continue airstrikes in support of Afghan forces fighting the Taliban, a top US general said on Sunday, as the insurgents press on with offensives across the country, news wires reported. Since early May, violence has surged after the insurgents launched a sweeping assault just days after the US-led foreign forces began their final withdrawal.

"The United States has increased airstrikes in the support of Afghan forces over the last several days, and we are prepared to continue this heightened level of support in the coming weeks if the Taliban continue their attacks," General Kenneth McKenzie, head of the US Army Central Command, told reporters in Kabul.

McKenzie acknowledged that there were tough days ahead for the Afghan government, but insisted that the Taliban were nowhere close to victory. "The Taliban are attempting to create a sense of inevitability about their campaign. They are wrong," he said.

McKenzie's remarks came as Afghan officials in the southern province of Kandahar said fighting in the region had displaced about 22,000 families in the past month. On Sunday, fighting continued on the outskirts of Kandahar city.The negligence of some security forces, especially the police, has made way for the Taliban to come that close," Lalai Dastageeri, deputy governor of Kandahar province, told AFP.

Amid fears that fighting will increase local authorities had set up four camps for the displaced people who are estimated to be about 154,000.

Kandahar, with its 650,000 inhabitants, is the second-largest city in Afghanistan after Kabul.

Ousted from power in a US-led invasion in 2001 after the September 11 attacks, the Taliban have spearheaded a deadly insurgency that continues to this day. Their latest offensive launched in early May has seen the group take control of half of the country's about 400 districts.

Earlier last week, the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff General Mark Milley said the Taliban appear to have "strategic momentum" on the battlefield.

Rights group points to evidence of Taliban abuses. Global rights group Human Rights Watch said there were reports the Taliban were committing atrocities against civilians in areas they had captured, including in the town of Spin Boldak near the border with Pakistan they took earlier this month. "Taliban leaders have denied responsibility for any abuses, but growing evidence of expulsions, arbitrary detentions, and killings in areas under their control are raising fears among the population," said Patricia Grossman, associate Asia director at HRW in a statement.

 

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