Kabul: The United States has accelerated its air campaign against the Taliban in the closing weeks of its military mission in Afghanistan, and the US forces’ top commander says they are prepared to continue if the militants continue their attack.

US forces bombarded Taliban positions in at least four air strikes last week, including in the southern province of Kandahar. Militants have besieged and now control some parts of the provincial capital, along with about half of the country’s district centres, defence officials have said.

In an attempt to halt theTaliaban’s offensive, Afghanistan’s government has imposed a night curfew across most of the country, ordering people home between 10pm and 4am in 31 of the nation’s 34 conference, although Kabul is exempt.

Afghan militiamen join defence and security forces in Kabul during a gathering to mobilise local militias across the country.

Afghan militiamen join defence and security forces in Kabul during a gathering to mobilise local militias across the country. Credit:AP

Since early May, when the US-led forces began their withdrawal, Taliban fighters have captured dozens of districts, encircled several provincial capitals and taken key border crossings.

Marine General Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie, the head of US Central Command, who assumed responsibility for operations in Afghanistan this month, told reporters that the number of air strikes had increased as the Taliban takes more territory.

“We are prepared to continue this heightened level of support in the coming weeks, if the Taliban continue their attacks” McKenzie said. “We’re taking air strikes as we need to take them.”

Some of the strikes came during “close fighting” between Afghan troops and the Taliban, he said. Defence officials said recent strikes have come at the request of Afghan forces, including to destroy stolen vehicles and artillery.

McKenzie repeated that US air strikes in support of Afghan forces would stop on August 31, when President Joe Biden has said the mission will end and the US withdrawal will be complete. The main focus afterward will be logistical support through contractors, such as maintenance for Afghan aircraft.


Source: | This article originally belongs to smh.com.au

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