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Pentagon leaders detail outstanding issues of military withdrawal from Afghanistan

Pentagon leadership is still sorting through a host of issues tied to withdrawing US military forces from Afghanistan by 11 September, including how to provide future support to Afghan national security forces.

Six days after the new drawdown phase officially began, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley fielded questions about the new mission on 6 May.

“There have been about 80 to 120 enemy initiated attacks a day for the past year, and that has also been sustained since 1 May,” Gen Milley said at the Pentagon. “There have been no attacks against US and coalition forces since the retrograde began.”

So far, approximately 60 C-17 transport aircraft “equivalents” loaded with military equipment have left the country, while more than 1,300 pieces of equipment have either been destroyed or transferred to Afghan military forces for use, the four-star general added.

Numerous questions remain about future US support to the Afghan Air Force (AAF).

For example, at present the AAF conducts approximately 80–90% of airstrikes in support of ground forces inside the country, Gen Milley said. However, Austin declined to say if this air support will gradually taper off in coming months or suddenly end in early September.

It is also not clear how the AAF will maintain its aircraft in the future. Gen Milley noted that the US could help remotely, or contractors for the US could ink deals with Afghanistan to provide future assistance.

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