The head of US Central Command, Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, said on Sunday that the US will seek to "keep pressure" on Daesh and Al Qaida, the Military Times reported.
“One thing I probably need to emphasize is we will still do everything we can to keep pressure on Daesh and Al Qaeda, from our over-the-horizon locations,” McKenzie said in an interview with Military Times.
“That is a task I’ve been given. Those are plans I’m in discussion with now with the secretary of defense. How we will do that, I’ve said before, that will be a very difficult thing to do,” he said.
In response to a question about the recent UN report warning that the Taliban appeared poised to take back control of Afghanistan, McKenzie said: “We still intend to support the Afghan military from just over the horizon. We’re still going to support them with funding.”
“We’re going to try very hard to support the Afghan air force over the horizon; some things will come out of the country to be worked on,” he said. “I don’t want to minimize this, because I think they’re going to be tested, but we will continue to support them, just not in the way we are supporting them now.”
He said: “The fighting is seesaw right now. You know we will do everything we can to help the Afghans going forward within the limits that we have, which is, of course, no boots on the ground. But it’s gonna be really on their shoulders now to stand or fall, and I think they have a fighting chance to do it. That’s what I’ve said before, and we’ll do everything we can to help them.”
Asked if the US would provide any combat support to Afghan forces if major cities such as Kabul were at risk of being overrun, he said: “Those are actually, as you will appreciate, policy decisions, not military decisions. I will tell you this. Right now what we’re planning to do after we withdraw is keep pressure on Al Qaida and Daesh, and that would be what we’d be doing, going back into Afghanistan.”
“When those entities presented actionable threats against the United States, we’d be prepared to go in there and take action if our Afghan partners are unable to do that, and that will be the limit of our kinetic actions in Afghanistan,” he said.
Asked about China and Russia stepping up efforts in Afghanistan, McKenzie said: “The Chinese, I think they would like to get in for the mass mineral deposits that exist on the ground in Afghanistan and in other places, and that’s their interest.”
“I think the Russians have concerns about the spread of terror north through the Stans into Russia. I think both are interested in it. None of them have been particularly supportive of us while we’ve been there, and if we leave, I think they will try to move in to fill what they perceive to be a vacuum,” he said.
“They may find that to be harder than they think, though, to actually accomplish,” he added.
In April US President Joe Biden announced that US troops will leave Afghanistan by September 11.