Maj. Gen. James B. Hecker, commander of US air forces in Afghanistan, warned on Wednesday that stern action would have to be taken against Taliban militants if they did not cooperate in efforts to stabilize the country and pursue peace.
He said that the group will face repercussions never before seen through airstrikes if they fail to join the peace process.
In an interview with TOLOnews, Hecker said the forces under his command were not interested in killing the Taliban, but warned the group that US forces will not remain a spectator when it comes to the killing of innocent people by the Taliban.
“Well the short message (message to the Taliban is) to reconcile, that’s what we are after, we don’t want to kill the Taliban, but we are not going to sit idly by if the Taliban are killing innocent women and children; so if they don’t reconcile, then we will be forced to fight them and that’s what we are doing right now. So the message to the Taliban is to reconcile,” said Hecker.
According to him, the US plans to shift its military equipment from Iraq and Syria to Afghanistan in a move to speed up efforts against the terrorist groups in Afghanistan.
Afghan officials have widely welcomed the transfer of US military equipment to Afghanistan.
E-10 aircrafts have for example returned to the battlefields after seven years.
“We don’t want Afghanistan to be a safe haven for terrorists, that’s why we are here and help the Afghan air force, they are doing a great job. They are really building up their inventory by this UH-60 we have here. As we know the Afghan forces are getting much more capable. So they are going to get more UH-60s and we bringing in more coalition aircraft ,” said Hecker.
In a question about civilian casualties sustained in battles, Hecker said the Afghan forces are doing their best to decrease the number of civilian deaths.
“Afghan air forces are doing extremely well when it comes to civilian casualties. I can tell you how many pilots and films that I watch of Afghan air force not dropping a bomb because there is a child, because there is a female there and of course we are the same way and the coalition air force,” he said.
This comes a day after the Afghanistan Air Force (AAF) took delivery of another four Black Hawk helicopters from the US forces on Tuesday at Kandahar airport.
The new helicopters added to the four others handed over to AAF by the US a few months ago.
US forces are training Afghan pilots to fly the Black Hawks.
“Right now every class has six student pilots, in the first days, they go through qualification training to go to know the basic system of the aircraft and that is six weeks long; after that they go through an eight week course in mission training and that will involve each student, and crew member, to land outside of the wire in a different location,” said Afghan trainer Colonel Almas.
According to US officials, the US forces dropped over 4,000 bombs on Taliban and Daesh facilities in Afghanistan in 2017.
The US has committed to providing 160 Black Hawk helicopters to Afghanistan in the next few years.