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24.4.2021 CENTCOM Chief voices concerns over Afghan forces holding power
The head of U.S. Central Command, Marine Gen. Kenneth Frank McKenzie has
said the Afghan security forces will collapse without American financial
support and it will be more difficult to target al Qaeda militants once
U.S.-led forces withdraw from Afghanistan in September.

The top U.S. general was speaking at a Senate hearing and later at a
Pentagon news conference. My concern is the ability for the Afghan
military to hold the ground that they are on now, without the support that
theyve been used to for many years, McKenzie told the Senate Armed
Services Committee.

U.S. financial and other assistance for Afghan security forces will be
vital after NATO troops depart, he said. If we dont provide them some
support they certainly will collapse and that is not in our best
interest, the general said.

The U.S., along with NATO allies, has kept the Afghan security forces
afloat with billions of dollars in annual funding over the past two
decades. For fiscal year 2021, Congress appropriated over $3 billion for
the Afghan military. The Taliban have steadily gained ground against
Afghan security forces in recent years as the U.S. military footprint has
declined. More than 2,500 U.S. troops remain in the country, along with
roughly 7,000 troops from other NATO nations, the NBC reported.

The Pentagon is now looking at how it could provide help from a distance
for the Afghan militarys maintenance challenges, McKenzie said.

We may be able to work some remote televised way to do that. Were going
to try all sorts of innovative ways, he told reporters later at a
Pentagon briefing. The one thing I can tell you is, were not going to be
there on the ground with them.

Once U.S. forces exit, tracking and targeting al Qaeda militants in
Afghanistan will be more difficult, he said.

Those operations will be harder but not impossible, McKenzie told
reporters.

Anti-Taliban Afghan fighters watch several explosions from U.S. bombings
in the Tora Bora mountains in Afghanistan, on Dec. 16, 2001.Erik de Castro
/ Reuters file

The U.S. military has no bases near the landlocked country, and fighter
jets or bombers would have to cover long distances from aircraft carriers
or bases in the Persian Gulf to reach targets in Afghanistan.

At a House hearing on Tuesday, McKenzie said U.S. intelligence gathering
would inevitably decline without American personnel on the ground and
drones inside the country able to convey information about potential
threats quickly.

As for President Bidens decision to pull out troops, McKenzie did not say
whether he had supported such a move but said he had ample opportunity to
provide his advice to the president.

It was a very thoughtful, very thoughtful, very in-depth process that
went on over an extended period of time, McKenzie said. The president
went out of the way to ensure all views were on the table.

The general said he rejected the idea that Americas longest war had been
in vain, arguing that the U.S. had achieved its goal of weakening al Qaeda
and protecting the country from terrorist attacks.

I think that weve accomplished the mission that we set out to do which
was to prevent an attack against the United States, that mission has been
accomplished, McKenzie said. Both McKenzie and his son were deployed to
Afghanistan.

Reflecting on Americans who had died in the war, McKenzie said, What few
words I can offer in an attempt to help those who have to deal with an
empty seat at the table, the voice that will not be heard again, the
missing laugh at the center of a gathering is this: We fought to protect
our country and to give others the chance to choose their own destiny.
There is no better, higher thing to fight for, thats why I went to war,
thats why my son went to war


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