U.S. military likely to ramp up operations against Taliban

According to the head of US Central Command, the Taliban overplayed its hand in peace negotiations by carrying out a spate of high-profile attacks

By REUTERS
September 9, 2019 23:59
1 minute read.
A member of the Taliban holds a flag in Kabul, Afghanistan

A member of the Taliban holds a flag in Kabul, Afghanistan June 16, 2018. The writing on the flag reads: 'There is no god but Allah, Muhammad is the messenger of Allah'. (photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMMAD ISMAIL)

 The US military is likely to accelerate the pace of its operations in Afghanistan to counter an increase in Taliban attacks, a senior US general said on Monday following Washington's suspension of peace talks with the insurgents.

US Marine General Kenneth McKenzie, the head of US Central Command, said during a visit to Afghanistan that the Taliban overplayed its hand in peace negotiations by carrying out a spate of high-profile attacks, including one that killed a US soldier last week.
The Taliban, which controls more territory than at any time since 2001 when it governed the country, said on Sunday that more American lives would be lost.


McKenzie declined to comment on the Taliban statement. But he noted that US troops in Afghanistan were hardly "defenseless."


"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 told a group of reporters traveling with him during a stop at Bagram Airfield in northeastern Afghanistan.


Air strikes by U.S-led international forces and Afghanistan’s small air force already are at a high level - a Sept. 3 United Nations report said there had been 506 between May 10 and Aug. 8, a 57 percent increase from the same period in 2018.


Asked whether increasing operations against the Taliban could include air strikes and raids by US and Afghan commandos, McKenzie responded: "I think we're talking a total spectrum."


"And, again, whatever targets are available, whatever targets can be lawfully and ethically struck, I think we're going to pursue those targets," he said.


Any increase in US military action would correspond to an acceleration of Taliban attacks, McKenzie said.


The insurgents' determination to step up both attacks on provincial centers and suicide bombings even as discussions were taking place was a major factor in pushing US President Donald Trump to announce on Saturday that he was canceling peace talks aimed at ending America's longest war of 18 years.


The halt to the negotiations has fueled fears of even more violence across Afghanistan, with heightened security warnings in the capital Kabul and other centers ahead of a presidential election scheduled for Sept. 28.


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