US commander asks Taliban to stop Afghan offensive or face air strikes

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Kabul

The top US commander in Afghanistan on Tuesday did not rule out conducting air strikes against the Taliban if they pressed on with their campaign of capturing new territory across the violence-wracked country.

Fighting has surged across the rugged countryside since early May when the US military began its final withdrawal of troops, with the Taliban claiming to have recently captured more than 100 of the over 400 districts across Afghanistan.

“What I like to see is no air strikes, but to get to no air strikes, you stop all violence,” General Scott Miller told reporters in Kabul on Tuesday.

“The best way to stop those, and I have actually told the Taliban this, is stop the offensive operations and air strikes,” he said, insisting that the US military still has the fire power to conduct air strikes against the insurgents even as it continues the withdrawal.

The remaining US troops are expected to be out by the September 11 deadline announced by President Joe Biden to end the violence-wracked country.

Fighting has surged across the rugged countryside since early May when the US military began its final withdrawal of troops, with the Taliban claiming to have recently captured more than 100 of the over 400 districts across Afghanistan.

“What I like to see is no air strikes, but to get to no air strikes, you stop all violence,” General Scott Miller told reporters in Kabul on Tuesday.

“The best way to stop those, and I have actually told the Taliban this, is stop the offensive operations and air strikes,” he said, insisting that the US military still has the fire power to conduct air strikes against the insurgents even as it continues the withdrawal.

The remaining US troops are expected to be out by the September 11 deadline announced by President Joe Biden to end America’s longest war.

The Taliban’s claims of capturing districts are often disputed by government officials and are difficult to independently verify.

But experts say one of the main reasons the Taliban has been able to capture scores of new districts in recent weeks is the lack of US air support to Afghan ground forces fighting across rural terrains.

Miller, who is soon to transition to another commander, acknowledged that any loss of territory has an impact on the overall security in the country.

“Because districts start representing key terrain as it relates to security of the people, of the provincial capitals and certainly security of the capital,” he said.

The Taliban recently captured a key border crossing with Tajikistan in the north along with other districts surrounding the city of Kunduz, effectively laying a siege to the city.. — Reuters

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