Pentagon expects step-up in Afghan action now that peace talks are halted

Pentagon expects step-up in Afghan action now that peace talks are halted

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Advisors from the 2nd Security Force Assistance Brigade conducting advising during their 2019 deployment to Afghanistan this summer (DoD photo by Maj. Jonathan Camire)

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is likely to increase airstrikes against the Taliban and pursue other offensives measures now that prospects for a peace accord with the terrorist group have cooled.

Pentagon officials said Tuesday the slowdown in U.S. efforts designed to give space and support to diplomatic efforts is likely to be recalibrated.

That was in concurrence with remarks made by Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, who told reporters traveling with him on a visit to Afghanistan that the U.S. is not going to sit back and get hit by the Taliban.

“We’re certainly not going to sit still and let them carry out some self-described race to victory. That’s not going to happen,” McKenzie said, according to Reuters. “Whatever targets are available, whatever targets can be lawfully and ethically struck, I think we’re going to pursue those targets.”

President Trump had sought to cut the U.S. troop commitment in Afghanistan from the current 15,500 to about 8,000 before he stands for reelection next year. It is unclear if those plans will go forward without a peace agreement.

Trump said he called off peace talks set for Camp David this week, on the eve of the 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, because the Taliban killed a U.S, soldier in an attack last week.

However, that reason is ponderous since the Trump administration has been talking a deal with the Taliban since October and other U.S. soldiers have been killed in their attacks since then — including 15 in 2019.

McKenzie said the Pentagon is “talking a total spectrum” on offensive action now that talks re scuttled.

“We’re going to make some decisions, I think, back in our nation’s capital over the next few days and that will give us increased guidance going ahead,” he said, according to news reports.

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