JUNE 22, 2021 – U.S. leaders continually assess the progress of the retrograde from Afghanistan and the state of operations in the country and adjust accordingly, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said today.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III has said the retrograde from Afghanistan is on pace. But, it is a dynamic situation in the nation.
The Taliban have attacked Afghan government bases and units. Kirby said that Austin and military leaders in the Pentagon, at U.S. Central Command and in Afghanistan, “are constantly looking at the pace we’re going at, and the capabilities we have, and the capabilities that we’re going to need throughout to complete the withdrawal,” Kirby said. “So as we said, from the very beginning; while there is a schedule, we are mindful that that schedule could fluctuate and change, as conditions change.”
Kirby said there are only two aspects of the Afghanistan retrograde that will not change: The first is the U.S. military will withdraw all U.S. forces from the country, and the second is the withdrawal will be finished by the September deadline set by President Joe Biden.
Other aspects of the Afghan situation are still being studied, Kirby said. Commanders at many levels are wrestling with what over-the-horizon counterinsurgency and over-the-horizon logistics will look like. The U.S. military can already provide the over-the-horizon support that the Afghan government will need, Kirby said, those capabilities already exist. Leaders are looking for better ways to perform the missions.
“[People] tend to forget that we already do have over-the-horizon capability when it comes to the counterterrorism threat in Afghanistan,” he said. “Is it robust enough? Is it sustainable for the long term? Well, that’s what we’re looking at.”
Austin has extended the aircraft carrier USS Eisenhower in the region. He has deployed a bomber task force to the area. “Nobody is discounting how difficult this is,” Kirby said. “But as the secretary said, difficult does not mean impossible, and we have the ability right now to reach any scrap of Earth that we believe we need to, should the risk warrant it.”
Planners continue to look at ways to provide contractual support to Afghan forces once the retrograde is completed. “There’s a range of options that we’re looking at for how to continue to provide contractual support … specifically the Afghan Air Forces,” Kirby said. “We’re very actively working our way through that right now. We’re looking at a range of options.”
BY JIM GARAMONE, DOD NEWS