US plans Afghanistan airstrikes if Al-Qaeda resurges

(Photo: Pixabay)
WASHONGTON, DC  — The Pentagon plans to rely on airstrikes to prevent a resurgence of Al-Qaeda now that US troops have left Afghanistan, but experts and some lawmakers are skeptical about the effectiveness of the so-called “over-the-horizon” strategy.اضافة اعلان

Announcing the complete withdrawal of US troops in April, President Joe Biden vowed he would not allow a comeback of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden hatched the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.

Since then, the Pentagon has repeatedly claimed it is capable of keeping Al-Qaeda and Daesh militants in Afghanistan in check through “over-the-horizon” strikes from US bases or aircraft carriers.

“Over-the-horizon operations are difficult but absolutely possible,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday. 

“And intelligence that supports them comes from a variety of sources, and not just US boots on the ground.”

Austin’s remarks came about two weeks after the Pentagon chief was forced to apologize to the relatives of civilians killed in an August 29 drone strike in Kabul.

The target of the drone strike was suspected Daesh militants but it ended up killing 10 civilians, including seven children, in what Austin called a “horrible mistake.”

It was the latest in a long line of US drone strikes that caused civilian casualties in Afghanistan, becoming one of the most contentious issues over the 20-year war and prompting harsh criticism from Afghans.

A number of experts and lawmakers have also expressed skepticism about the efficacy of long distance strikes on Afghanistan, which is thousands kilometers from the nearest US base.

“Kill Terrorists in Afghanistan From ‘Over The Horizon’? Good Luck,” headlined an article by James Holmes, a professor of maritime strategy at the Naval War College.

“Over-the-horizon operations work well when the battlefield lies within easy reach of sea or air forces,” Holmes said in the piece published on the national security website

“Land-based aircraft flying from Persian Gulf airstrips must detour southward around hostile Iranian airspace, into the Arabian Sea, and northward through Pakistani airspace to strike targets in Afghanistan,” said Holmes, a former US Navy officer.

Read more