‘US to keep pressure on IS, Al Qaeda in Afghanistan’

Kenneth McKenzie, Commander of the US Central Command, has said that Washington will seek to “keep pressure” on the Islamic State (IS) and Al Qaeda terror groups in Afghanistan, a media report said on Monday.

“We will still do everything we can to keep pressure on the IS and Al Qaeda, from our over-the-horizon locations,” TOLO News quoted quoted McKenzie as saying in an interview with Military Times.

“That is a task I’ve been given. Those are plans I’m in discussion with now with the Secretary of Defense. How we will do that, I’ve said before, that will be a very difficult thing to do,” he added.

Regarding a recent UN report warning that the Taliban appeared poised to take back control of Afghanistan, McKenzie said: “We still intend to support the Afghan military from just over the horizon. We’re still going to support them with funding.

“We’re going to try very hard to support the Afghan air force over the horizon; some things will come out of the country to be worked on.

“I don’t want to minimise this, because I think they’re going to be tested, but we will continue to support them, just not in the way we are supporting them now.”

Asked if the US would provide any combat support to Afghan forces if major cities such as Kabul were at risk of being overrun, McKenzie said: “Those are actually policy decisions, not military decisions. Right now what we’re planning to do after we withdraw is keep pressure on Al Qaeda and IS, and that would be what we’d be doing, going back into Afghanistan.”

The top US official’s remarks come as the Taliban have intensified attacks on provincial capitals, districts, bases and checkpoints since the official withdrawal of the US and other NATO troops in Afghanistan on May 1.

At least 15 districts have fallen to the Taliban since May 1, leading to the displacement of tens of thousands of Afghans.

According to a UN report, the Taliban were able to capture five districts in the past year, four of which were recaptured by the government within several days.

The withdrawal of international troops is due to be completed by September 11 at the latest.