The U.S. has amplified its air campaign against Taliban forces during the final weeks of its military presence in the region.
Marine Gen. Kenneth "Frank" McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, told the press over the weekend that the U.S. is prepared to continue the campaign if Taliban militants remain on the offensive. Taliban forces have seized a significant amount of territory the last few weeks and now control some parts of the provincial capital of Kandahar, the birthplace of the group.
"We are prepared to continue this heightened level of support in the coming weeks, if the Taliban continue their attacks. We’re taking airstrikes as we need to take them," McKenzie said. U.S. forces executed at least four airstrikes against the militant group last week.
The airstrikes in support of Afghan troops will end on Aug. 31, when the U.S. mission will end and withdrawal will be complete. The withdrawal, according to the Pentagon, is currently about 95% done.
"We spent a lot of time training. Now is their moment," said McKenzie of Afghan forces.
McKenzie also described ways in which the U.S. will continue to support the Afghans following the departure. Support will primarily entail logistical help via contractors, including maintenance on Afghan aircraft. Some vehicles, including helicopters, attack planes, and cargo aircraft, will be airlifted to other countries, repaired, and then flown back to Afghanistan.
"I’m not going to kid you and say it’s going to be easy. It will be far more difficult than it was in the past. We will do everything in our power to keep that Air Force effective, flying, and in support of their forces," he said.