General: Strikes 'Will Persist Until the Taliban Reconcile or Die'
ARLINGTON, Va. -- The commander of U.S. Air Force's Central Command in Qatar declared today that a pressure campaign against the Taliban "will persist until the Taliban reconcile or die."
In a teleconference briefing from the Combined Air Operations Center at Al Udeid Air Base, Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian said A-10s, MQ-9s and HH-60s have been shifted to Afghanistan to "provide increased air support to the South Asia strategy, as well as ongoing counterterrorism efforts in Afghan-led operations."
"This plus-up in air power is also producing tangible results as part of a deliberate air campaign that we kicked off in late November to decimate the Taliban's primary revenue source, narcotics production," he said. "Like in [Operation Inherent Resolve], where we destroyed the oil production that ISIS depended on to fund their operations, our aim is to choke off the Taliban's ability to fund its deadly attacks, like the recent ones in Kabul."
A Taliban bombing at the end of January -- conducted with an ambulance as a car bomb -- in central Kabul killed more than 100 people. The Taliban argued afterward that by targeting a government building they couldn't have killed innocent civilians and claimed fake news was skewing casualty reports. They justified an earlier brutal attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul by claiming jihadists "only searched for foreign invaders and left our countrymen alone."
Harrigian said the air campaign "will take time, but it will not adhere to the Afghans' traditional fighting seasons."
"Instead it will be relentless and persistent, as demonstrated by the 321 precision munitions we released this January against Taliban targets in the dead of winter, a time they typically rest and recuperate. Compare that to 54 in January of 2017," the general noted. "...We are already seeing positive reflections from our intelligence that the Taliban are not enjoying their typical winter break."
On Thursday, the Taliban published a piece on their English-language website stating that they do "not consider war as the only solution, however if there are no other sensible ways for independence of our country and establishing an Independent Islamic system, then they do not have other choice except resistance and jihad."
"Until and unless both sides of the conflict do not agree on ceasefire, it is irrational to expect from Mujahidin not to fight," they added. "...The only way to end the present misery and disaster is to refer to logic and reason, not foolhardiness, oppression and combat."
Asked about the threat of safe havens for terrorists across the border in Pakistan, Harrigian told reporters today that the U.S. continues "to work closely with our Pakistan partners," and "our intent is to make sure that Pakistan continues their fight against terrorists and does all that they can to support, not only protecting themselves, but also protecting coalition and Afghan partners that are operating there."