News - Afghanistan
U.S. forces stationed in Afghanistan have continued to conduct strategic missions targeting Taliban commanders in addition to remnants of al-Qaeda in the months following the end of the NATO combat mission. According to U.S. officials and independent analysts, the strikes are allowed within the framework of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), which allows for flexibility in adapting to conditions on the ground.
According to officials, over the past three months, U.S. forces have conducted nearly 128 air strikes on middle-ranking Taliban commanders. The Commander of the U.S.' Resolute Mission, General John Campbell, said this week that the attacks have targeted Taliban leaders who pose the biggest threats to the Afghan forces and the remaining U.S. troops heading up training and advising in Afghanistan.
General Campbell suggested that the strikes, while clearly a form of combat, are part of a kind of grey-area in the BSA signed between the Afghan government and Washington. "Combat and war and transition, as you know, are very complex things," General Campbell said on Thursday. "For me, it's not black and white," he added.
The U.S. suppressive attacks have reportedly increased as Taliban and other militant group violence has picked up in various parts of the country in recent months. A number of Afghan political commentators have said that, based on the BSA, the U.S. forces are actually obligated to conduct such strikes, given the mounting threat insurgents have posed to the country's stability.
"Based on the agreement, the U.S. is obliged to contribute in the battles alongside providing equipment and training for the security forces, and based on needs, they must support the security forces of the country," military expert Atiqullah Amarkhail said.
Some western officials have maintained that the ongoing strikes are necessary for keeping the thousands of NATO advisors still on the ground in Afghanistan safe. Yet Afghan MP Iqbal Kohistani also pointed out on Thursday that, as has been the case over the past decade, western countries see security in Afghanistan as being interrelated with security in the region and abroad. Thus, the strikes are seen as an obvious extension of the U.S. continued War on Terrorism, regardless of the status of its troops in Afghanistan.
"Global security is interrelated with stability in Afghanistan," MP Kohistani said. "If the terror hideouts aren't eliminated in Afghanistan, international security will still be at risk, and based on the agreement, these forces are responsible to support the Afghan troops in battle."