The United States Central Command as well as American diplomats are working on plans with countries in the region on agreements to base troops and aircraft for counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan after all forces are withdrawn from the country.
Quoted in a report by Air Force Magazine, Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the commander of the US Central Command, said told the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that the command is going through “detailed planning” on what future operational plans and force laydowns could be after the withdrawal, which will be completed by Sept. 11.
According to the report, future counterterrorism operations will require ways to surveil targets in Afghanistan if needed, including with the use of overhead intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft operating from outside of the country.
Quoting US diplomats and military officials, The New York Times reported that possibilities in the region include Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
US forces would then need to “finish” those targets through multiple options, including long-range fires and “targeted raids—although those are inherently dangerous, but you could still do it,” McKenzie said, adding that “You could do it with manned aircraft. There are problems with all three of those options, but there’s also opportunities with all three of those options.”
Without a presence in the country, it will be “extremely difficult to do, but it is not impossible to do it,” he said.
Gen. McKenzie said there are ongoing discussions in Afghanistan for a status of forces agreement and what the size of the US embassy would be after the withdrawal.
He added that it would be “helpful” if the US can maintain the embassy in Kabul because the presence will assist in the ability to “see into Afghanistan.”
In response to questions, McKenzie made it clear that the Sept. 11, 2021, deadline to withdraw from the country is more than just US and coalition military members.
US President Joe Biden has announced that the United States will withdraw its remaining 2,500 troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11.