Tuesday, September 21, 2021
Sept. 21, 2021

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U.S. supporting Afghan forces with airstrikes this week

Military steps up attacks, launches more than a dozen


WASHINGTON — The U.S. military has launched more than a dozen airstrikes in the past week in support of Afghan government forces in their fight against the Taliban, a sharp spike over the handful that were done in the previous six weeks, according to U.S. officials.

The Pentagon said Tuesday that both conventional warplanes and armed drones were used, but did not provide details. A U.S. official, however, gave some specifics and said there has been a significant increase in strikes since July 20, with the number sometimes reaching almost a handful a day.

The strikes, which include several conducted last week, indicate stepped up U.S. support after weeks of battlefield gains by the Taliban as U.S. troops complete their withdrawal. U.S. officials have said that the aircraft have been flown from bases outside of Afghanistan because the U.S. military pulled its combat planes out of the country.

“A number of strikes have occurred over the last several days from both manned and unmanned strike platforms,” Maj. Robert Lodewick, a Pentagon spokesman, said.

According to officials, the airstrikes have largely been in direct support of Afghan forces under attack by the Taliban, but several also struck military equipment that had been captured by the Taliban. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to provide greater detail on the attacks.

The airstrikes have been launched in a number of regions in the country, but a key focus has been around Kandahar, a provincial center that officials worry could fall to the Taliban. The Taliban now control more than 200 of the 419 district centers and have made progress in cutting off some supply routes. But while they are putting pressure on up to half of the 34 provincial capitals, they have yet to seize control of any.