On Saturday, Taliban forces in Afghanistan launched rockets at a U.S. base in Kandahar, Afghanistan as U.S. forces began their final withdrawal from the country. The Taliban rocket attack prompted a U.S. counterstrike, which destroyed additional rockets aimed at the U.S. base.
Responding to the rocket attack, U.S. Forces Afghanistan spokesman Army Col. Sonny Leggett tweeted, “Kandahar Airfield received ineffective indirect fire this afternoon; no injury to personnel or damage to equipment. Gen Miller has been clear about the Coalition’s intent to protect the force.” Leggett’s tweet also included a video statement from Army Gen. Austin “Scott” Miller, the commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan.
The Taliban rocket attack came as a deadline to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by May 1, passed with thousands of U.S. troops still remaining in the country. The May 1 deadline was set out in an agreement between President Donald Trump and the Taliban in February of last year, but President Joe Biden pushed back that deadline in April, saying U.S. troops would only begin their final withdrawal on May 1 and complete it by Sept. 11, 2021.
As Biden moved back the U.S. troop withdrawal timeline, the Taliban warned that those who remained in Afghanistan beyond May 1 would face repercussions. Kandahar Airfield was already the target of an April rocket attack, as Biden expressed doubt about meeting the May 1 withdrawal deadline.
Following the attack, Leggett warned that the U.S. still has the capabilities to respond to Taliban attacks, even as troops leave the country.
“A return to violence would be one senseless & tragic.” Leggett tweeted, quoting Miller. “But make no mistake, we have the military means to respond forcefully to any type of attacks against the coalition and the military means to support the Afg security forces. That would be a mistake to move in that direction.”
“U.S. Forces conducted a precision strike this evening, destroying additional rockets aimed at the airfield,” Leggett tweeted.
While the U.S. has the ability to respond to Taliban attacks, the recent incident may indicate additional violence to come in the months ahead.
On Sunday, Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Associated Press the Afghan government faces “bad possible outcomes” against Taliban insurgents as U.S. troops leave the country.
“The Afghan army, do they stay together and remain a cohesive fighting force or do they fall apart? I think there’s a range of scenarios here, a range of outcomes, a range of possibilities,” Milley said. “On the one hand you get some really dramatic, bad possible outcomes. On the other hand, you get a military that stays together and a government that stays together. Which one of these options obtains and becomes reality at the end of the day? We frankly don’t know yet. We have to wait and see how things develop over the summer.”
According to the Washington Times, the Taliban already controls about half of Afghanistan, while the U.S.-backed Afghan government controls the country’s major population centers and has an increasingly shaky grasp of those areas.