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Will continue drone strikes in Afghanistan ‘if and when needed’: Pentagon

Reaper drones (Tangopaso/WikiCommons)
September 02, 2021

A day after the last remaining troops of the United States left Afghanistan, the Pentagon on Tuesday said that it will continue to conduct drone strikes against the Islamic State-Khorasan (ISIS-K) and other terrorist groups operating within the South Asian nation. The ISIS-K is the same group that carried out an attack on Kabul airport last week killing at least 169 Afghans and 13 US service members.

Following the attack, the US also retaliated with drone strikes against an ISIS-K planner, a facilitator and a suspected suicide car bomber.

“We have the capability from an over the horizon perspective of ensuring our national security interests are protected and defended,” said the press secretary of Pentagon, John Kirby according to Fox News. “And what I would tell you, without getting into hypotheticals or speculating about future operations, we’re going to continue to maintain those capabilities and use them if and when we need to,” Kirby added.

The longest war of America ended late on Monday after the US withdrew the last remaining troops from Afghanistan. The chaotic exit led to Taliban seizing control of Afghanistan and pushed the war-torn country back to where it was in 2001. Though international affairs observers are sceptical about the Taliban, infamous for their treatment of women and girls, as well as a brutal justice system, the group has repeatedly promised to have a more tolerant and moderate regime this time.

On Tuesday, Taliban leaders walked across the runway of Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport after the last American planes left Afghanistan. They also fired celebratory shots in the air and called it a “major victory.” “This victory belongs to us all,” Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said, adding, “the world should have learned their lesson and this is the enjoyable moment of victory.”

In a speech on Tuesday, President Joe Biden reiterated the US’ stand against the ISIS-K group. “To ISIS-K we are not done with you yet,” Biden said, adding that “to those who wish America harm, we will hunt you down and you will pay the ultimate price.”

Defending a decision that drew sharp criticism and scrutiny for its execution, Biden also said the real decision in Afghanistan was “between leaving and escalating,” framing his choice to withdraw troops as the only option aside from surging more forces to the country. “I was not going to extend this forever war, and I was not extending a forever exit,” he added.

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(c) 2021 the Hindustan Times

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