The United States has deployed a dozen additional warplanes to bolster protection of American and coalition troops making a final withdrawal from Afghanistan as Taliban insurgents step up pressure on Afghan government forces, top Pentagon officials said Thursday.
Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said F-18 attack planes have been added to a previously announced package of air and sea power — including the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier in the North Arabian Sea and six Air Force B-52 bombers based in Qatar — that can be called upon as protection for withdrawing troops. Also part of that previously announced package are several hundred Army Rangers.
U.S. officials said before the withdrawal began that they expected the Taliban to attempt to interfere, even as the insurgents continue pressuring government forces, especially in Helmand and Kandahar provinces in southern Afghanistan.
“There continue to be sustained levels of violent attacks” by the Taliban against Afghan security forces, Milley said, speaking alongside Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at a Pentagon news conference. He said there have been no attacks against U.S. or coalition forces since they began pulling out of the country on about May 1, and he described the Afghan forces as “cohesive,” even as speculation swirls around Kabul’s ability to hold off the Taliban in the months ahead.
Both Milley and Austin, a retired Army general, are veterans of the war in Afghanistan.
“They’re fighting for their own country now, so it’s not a foregone conclusion, in my professional military estimate, that the Taliban automatically win and Kabul falls, or any of those kinds of dire predictions,” Milley said. “That’s not a foregone conclusion. There’s a significant military capability in the Afghan government. We have to see how this plays out.”
Milley said the Pentagon is considering options for continued support of Afghan government forces after the troop withdrawal is complete, including possibly training Afghan security forces in another country. That would be in addition to urging the Congress to authorize continued financial assistance to the Afghan forces, which has been in the range of $4 billion a year for many years, and possibly providing aircraft maintenance support remotely from another country.
“We haven’t figured that out 100% yet,” Milley said.
Milley said Afghanistan’s air force is central to the strategy for holding off the Taliban, but the durability of those planes is in some doubt. The U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said in an April 30 report that without continued foreign contractor support, none of the Afghan air force’s airframes can be sustained as combat effective for more than a few months.
Austin acknowledged that holding off the Taliban without American support on the ground “will be a challenge” for the Afghans.
“We’re hopeful that the Afghan security forces will play a major role in stopping the Taliban,” Austin said. “What we’re seeing unfold is what we expected to unfold — increased pressure” on the Afghan forces. He asserted that government forces launched a counterattack this week against the Taliban in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, and that they were “performing fairly well.”
President Joe Biden announced last month that all American troops will withdraw from Afghanistan by Sept. 11. NATO allies have said they will do the same, and troops have already begun leaving. Austin said the “drawdown is going according to plan.”
The Pentagon has said there were about 2,500 U.S. troops there in recent months, and Milley said in an interview last weekend that the total rises to 3,300 if special operations forces are counted. Military commanders have said that additional forces will flow in temporarily to help with security and logistics for the drawdown.
Pentagon officials have said they will do all they can to monitor terror threats and help the Afghans from other locations in the region, described as “over the horizon.” But officials have not detailed where those would be.
Gen. Frank McKenzie, the top U.S. commander for the Middle East, has warned that Afghanistan’s military “will certainly collapse” without some continued American support once all U.S. troops are withdrawn. He has expressed concerns that Afghan forces may be unable to prevent the Taliban from taking more ground, and said the Afghans will need help and funding to maintain and fly their aircraft.
Milley said last week that Afghan government forces face an uncertain future and, in a worst-case scenario, some “bad possible outcomes” against Taliban insurgents as the withdrawal of American and coalition troops accelerates in the coming weeks.
On Thursday, Milley took a hopeful tone in speaking about the government forces avoiding a collapse.
“There is 300-plus thousand (in the) Afghan army, Afghan police,” he said. “It’s their country. They’ve been leading the fight for several years now. We’ve been supporting them, for sure. But they’ve been leading the fight. And I’m a personal witness … that the Afghan forces can fight.”
Dems Fear Biden’s Domestic Agenda Could Implode
Internal Democratic discord has wounded President Joe Biden’s massive social spending plan, raising the prospect that the package could stall out, shrink dramatically — or even fail altogether.
Myriad problems have arisen. Moderate Senate Democrats Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) continue to be a major headache for party leadership’s $3.5 trillion target. The Senate parliamentarian just nixed the party’s yearslong push to enact broad immigration reform. House members may tank the prescription drugs overhaul the party has run on for years. And a fight continues to brew over Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) push to expand Medicare.
“If any member of Congress is not concerned that this could fall apart, they need treatment,” said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), who warned his party “will pay for it at the polls” if it fails in enacting Biden’s agenda. “Our caucus has the feeling of freedom to support or oppose leadership.”
Those headwinds threaten to sap the momentum from this summer, when Biden clinched a bipartisan infrastructure deal in the Senate and found support from all corners of his party for a budget setting up his sweeping spending bill. Now, Manchin is calling for a pause, moderates are resisting key components of the legislation and a new fiscal fight over the debt limit is heating up.
Those dynamics have Democrats essentially looking for an internal reset from a monthslong debate over Biden’s agenda that keeps publicly playing out through leaks, lines in the sand and fights over the topline number.
“I wish that we could all be more on the same page, in terms of timing, of the need to push the [American Families Plan],” said Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii). “I’m hopeful we are going to have a meeting of the minds and not wait until next year … we better have a Plan B.”
The multi-problem pileup comes at a critical moment for the party and for Biden, who needs a legislative win amid slumping approval ratings. But though polls show much of his social spending bill is popular outside Congress, winning approval among Democrats’ slim majorities has been harder.
With a three-vote margin in the House and a 50-50 split in the Senate, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer can’t afford to alienate either wing of their fractious party or else the chances for either of Biden’s signature domestic victories could evaporate all together.
“None of us know where this is gonna go,” said Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.). “This is where leadership is made or broken, plain and simple. And that’s true of the president, that’s true of speakers, that’s true of majority leaders.”
Manchin has been the most outspoken Democrat, publicly asking for a pause on the big spending bill with inflation rising, but the West Virginian declined to lay out his thinking Monday night when asked just how long he wants his party to put the brakes on: “Let’s see if you understand English: not a word.”
It’s unclear exactly how many Democrats are siding with prominent House and Senate moderates. One centrist Democrat up for reelection next year, Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), declined to say whether she’s comfortable with the $3.5 trillion spending number on Monday, or whether she agrees with pausing the legislation.
“We are at a critical moment,” said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin. “The total amount to be spent has to be negotiated with those who are questioning the $3.5 trillion. So, this is the key week.”
Democrats are broadly rejecting Manchin’s overtures to stall the social spending plan, arguing doing so is akin to killing the bill. If Democrats don’t keep positive momentum behind their effort to fight climate change, improve child care and raise taxes on the wealthy, they worry that the whole thing could fall apart.
“You can’t stop this process. If you stop it it won’t get started again,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.). “You’ve really got to keep it moving, there’s no magic date, but as you get closer and closer to other deadlines, this one gets more difficult.”
For progressives, the dissension over a bill they see as vital for delivering on their party’s priorities is enough for some to weigh tanking the bipartisan infrastructure bill negotiated by centrist Democratic senators. Many on the left say they’ve already compromised by agreeing to a $3.5 trillion spending bill rather than $6 trillion or more proposed by progressive leaders like Sanders and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.).
What’s more, the party’s long-running goal of enacting immigration reform is now in major doubt, as there may be no path to including legal status in the reconciliation bill and bipartisan talks have repeatedly stalled out. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) acknowledged “the immigration stuff is a setback, but certainly not a death knell.”
And progressives have grown increasingly annoyed by what they see as grandstanding by Manchin and Sinema. Just as behind-the-scenes negotiations on the social bill get underway, one of the two prominent moderates keep blasting out statements that jolt the talks and stall what progress has been made, they say.
“I am very tired of it,” said Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.). “I don’t think they are making their decisions based on the needs of the American or even the people in their own state.” He added that they seem more motivated by “corporate interest.”
But Democrats close to the centrists say progressives are vastly overplaying their hand. A group of five to 10 House moderates have signaled to leadership that they would be willing to let the infrastructure bill fail rather than be held hostage by liberals over the broader spending bill. It’s a more attractive alternative to them than having to vote for painful tax increases to pay for an unrestrained social safety net expansion, according to a person familiar with the discussions.
“I think it would be counterproductive to reconciliation,” said centrist Rep. Ed Case (D-Hawaii), speaking about progressive threats to tank the bipartisan bill without the broader spending plan.
“This fiction that linking the two bills will somehow enact leverage on the reconciliation side — I think it’s just that, a fiction.”
Despite the Democratic handwringing, a spokesperson for Biden said the administration is lobbying an array of members and “good progress is being made.
”The administration is “articulating the need to invest in families over big corporations at this crucial inflection point and ensure our economy delivers for the middle class,” said Andrew Bates, a White House spokesperson.
Meanwhile, progressives are not as united as the smaller, tight-knit band of House and Senate moderates that forced votes on the $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure bill in the Senate this summer and a commitment for one in the House next week. The Progressive Caucus has a sprawling membership that is unlikely to vote in lockstep — and may not have the oomph to tank the bill if House Republicans help pass the bipartisan legislation.
“There is absolutely a level where it’s not just something is not better than nothing, but something can actually do more harm,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) of the infrastructure bill. “That’s why we are holding firm on our line. …This isn’t just a flight of fancy.”
Trump Ripped Into President Joe Biden’s Afghanistan Withdrawal
Former President Donald Trump ripped into President Joe Biden’s Afghanistan withdrawal saying the actions were “indefensible.”
His comments came during an interview on Glenn Beck’s radio show on Tuesday.
Asked if the current administration was following his withdrawal plans, Trump said, “No. Not even a little bit — and we had a great plan. It was based on many conditions. For instance, you can’t kill American soldiers.”
He said he warned the Taliban that “if you kill any Americans or any American soldiers, we’re going to hit you harder than any country has ever been hit before.”
“For approximately 18 months, not one American soldier was killed,” he said. “You have to understand I did want to get out with dignity and I wanted to take our equipment out and I didn’t want to get soldiers killed.”
He said he has spoken to “numerous” parents of those American soldiers who died in a bomb blast at the Kabul airport during the withdrawal.
“They will only speak to me,” Trump said. “They won’t speak to Biden because they view what he did as having killed their child. What he did was just indefensible. He took the military out first and he left all these people. And we became beggars to get the people out.”
Trump noted Apache helicopters were also left behind.
“These are really expensive weapons,” he said. “They (the Taliban) have 28 of them. And they’re brand new. They’re the latest model. Why wouldn’t (the Biden administration) bring pilots in to fly out the planes or helicopters. It would have taken them an hour.”
Trump noted European nations respected the U.S. greatly during his administration.
“Now, they don’t,” he said. “They’re laughing at us like we’re fools. And the way (Biden) got out of Afghanistan was, in my opinion, I think it was the most embarrassing event in the history of our country.
“If you get out of Afghanistan, you leave with great dignity. You leave with your weapons. We could have had our soldiers saved, our people out, everything beautiful …”
Trump also blasted Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“Peril,” a new book by journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, claims Milley had sought to assure China’s Gen. Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army in calls that the United States was stable and not going to attack during the final months of the Trump administration. And, if there were to be an attack, he would alert his counterpart ahead of time.
“I learned early on (Milley) was a dope,” Trump said.
Ted Cruz Slams The Democrats In Latest Interview
Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas recently slammed the Democrats for bowing down to their radical left-wing comrades in office as they prepare to pass a massive $3.5 trillion budget that will bring our nation economic difficulties in the years to come.
“Bernie Sanders is a wide-eyed and admitted socialist. He says this is the most transformational bill in a generation. He means that it; it is trillions in spending. It is trillions in new taxes. It is the Green New Deal, it is — everyone who pays taxes in America will see their taxes go up under this massive proposal. Individual taxes are going up, corporate taxes are going up, small business taxes are going up, capital gains taxes are going up, the death tax is going up, seniors are getting hammered, farmers, ranchers, small businesses; it is disastrous,” Cruz stated in his scathing interview.
The plan of the Biden administration to impose severe tax hikes will indeed hurt not only the corporations but small businesses and even retail investors. The pandemic has put a heavy strain on the financial well-being of the average American and this taxation plan can destroy their goal to preserve the value of their hard-earned money. Inflation is a beast that will hurt us all and increased taxes will further complicate matters for our troubled economy.
“Whether it passes or not will depend on 50 Democrats in the Senate. Do they get Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to go along? I can tell you Chuck Schumer is putting a world of hurt and pressure on the two of them. I hope they stand their ground, that they have demonstrated some real courage so far, standing up to the crazies in their party,” Cruz said, praising a couple of Democrats for bravely going against the grain.
The former Texas Solicitor General also hit president Biden for trying to divert attention from his epic Afghanistan blunder, by imposing more strict vaccine mandates.
“They want to change the topic from Afghanistan. It’s why Biden issued this completely illegal and unconstitutional vaccine mandate, because he wanted to change the topic from the disaster in Afghanistan,” Cruz said.
“The vaccine mandate is going to be struck down in court. They know that, but the president is defying the law because he wanted the press to start defending him and stop talking about the disasters in Afghanistan. And he’s counting on a bunch of big businesses in particular, forcing their employees to comply before the matter is ever adjudicated. And before the order is struck down,” Cruz added.
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