A targeted strike by U.S. forces in Afghanistan Sunday night killed five Taliban fighters attacking Afghan security forces, a spokesman for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan announced via a tweet early Monday morning.
“USFOR-A conducted a targeted strike in Nerkh, Wardak last night- in defense of the ANDSF and in accordance with the U.S.-TB Agreement- killing 5 Taliban fighters,” tweeted Army Col. Sonny Leggett. “We reject the allegations of violating the agreement and of killing innocent Afghans.”
The strike comes less than a week after Army Gen. Austin “Scott” Miller, the top U.S. general in Afghanistan, said U.S. forces in Afghanistan are doing their best to keep to an agreement to reduce violence, including opting not to go on the offensive in some cases.
“We’ve shown a great deal of restraint because we’re trying to make this peace process work,” Miller told the BBC in a segment that aired Oct. 21. “At the same time, we’ll defend our forces.”
What goes on between the Taliban and Afghan security forces is another matter, and critics have pointed out that as the U.S. reduces its troop presence in the country ― and the president proclaims that everyone could be home by Christmas ― Afghanistan remains as unstable as ever.
Last year, the Trump administration set about 8,000 troops as its benchmark to remain in Afghanistan after a peace deal, but that number wound down to about 4,000 this year.
“We’re down to 4,000 troops in Afghanistan,” President Donald Trump said Oct. 8 in an interview with Fox Business Channel. “I’ll have them home by the end of the year. They’re coming home, you know, as we speak. Nineteen years is enough. They’re acting as policemen, OK? They’re not acting as troops.”
A best-case scenario timeline, per the peace talks in Qatar, would have had troops out of the country later in spring 2021.
Despite Trump’s assertions, every single U.S. military leader has stressed that a full withdrawal from the country is based on conditions, and one of those is a long-term reduction in violence from the Taliban.
“If the violence goes up, it’s going to make it very, very difficult to come to any solution in Doha, which is exactly what this country needs,” Miller said.
Howard Altman is an award-winning editor and reporter who was previously the military reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and before that the Tampa Tribune, where he covered USCENTCOM, USSOCOM and SOF writ large among many other topics.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.