Even as American military leaders are drawing down the number of troops in Afghanistan, U.S. forces conducted a strike against the Taliban on Thursday, the command overseeing operations in the region announced.
“USFOR-A conducted a strike against armed Taliban fighters attacking an ANDSF checkpoint in Zhari district Kandahar on Dec 10,” Army Col. Sonny Leggett announced via a tweet Friday morning.
The strike in defense of Afghan National Defense and Security Forces is in accordance with the US-Taliban agreement signed in February, he added.
Leggett denied Taliban assertions that civilians were killed
“The Taliban’s claim of civilian casualties are false,” he said.
The strike comes as the U.S. is working to reduce the number of troops in Afghanistan and peace negotiations are ongoing.
With plans in motion to draw down the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan to 2,500 next month, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff recently defended that decision by outlining the state of the conflict there.
In addition to reaching something of a stalemate, where the Taliban can’t conquer the U.S.-backed Afghan security forces, and the U.S. can’t bring the Taliban to its knees, Army Gen. Mark Milley said Dec. 2 during a Brookings Institution event that the U.S. has probably done all it can do.
“We believe now that after 20 years, two decades, of consistent effort, that we have achieved a modicum of success,” he said.
Since the first boots hit the ground in October 2001, more than 2,400 American troops have died and nearly 21,000 have been injured, along with the close to $1 trillion spent trying to stabilize Afghanistan enough that it won’t again become a training ground for terrorist groups.
Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller announced on Nov. 17 that forces in that country would draw down from 4,500 to 2,500 by Jan. 15, continuing on a Trump administration plan laid out earlier this year that would bring the number to zero by May.
“With the blessings of providence in the coming year, we will finish this generational war and bring our men and women home,” Miller said. “We will protect our children from the heavy burden and toll of perpetual war. And we will honor the sacrifices made in service to peace and stability in Afghanistan, Iraq and around the world and celebrate all those who helped us secure freedom over oppression.”
The Taliban and Afghan government, with input from the State Department, are continuing peace negotiations in Qatar. A negotiated settlement like the one they’re moving toward, Milley said, is the most common resolution in a situation where an operational victory is improbable.
It’s not yet known, however, where the incoming Biden administration will stand on the drawdown.
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.