11:52 GMT28 November 2020
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    James Anderson, the nominee to be the US deputy under secretary of defense for policy, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday that if the Taliban continues its attacks on Afghan government forces, the US may have to reassess its scheduled withdrawal from the country, even though the militant group hasn’t attacked US forces.

    “We’re going to reassess all the conditions going forward,” Anderson told lawmakers on Thursday, according to Air Force Magazine. “I would hope that the deal would not collapse. [The Taliban] have shown a commitment to at least part of it so far. And hopefully they will honor the remaining portions. If they don’t, then we’ll reassess, and we’ll do what we need to do.”

    While there have only been a handful of violent incidents between US and Taliban forces since the peace accord was signed in Doha, Qatar, on March 1, there were some 4,500 attacks by the militant group against Afghan government forces in the 45 days between March 1 and April 15, Reuters reported on May 1.

    CNN reported the day prior that the US withdrawal was continuing at pace, with there now being fewer than 10,000 US troops in Afghanistan. The peace accord provided for reductions of US troops from roughly 12,000 to 8,600 over the 19 weeks following its signing. However, the Afghan government, which the Taliban has so far refused to recognize as legitimate, was excluded from those talks, and separate Taliban-Kabul talks were intended to begin after the March 1 accord was signed.

    Kabul’s hesitancy to meet the promises made by the Americans in Doha, such as releasing 5,000 Taliban prisoners as a show of goodwill, have frustrated attempts to start the talks after the Taliban cried foul. As a result, the war is just as hot as ever, albeit largely without US involvement.

    However, the US isn’t totally absent from the war: the US mission to rebuild Afghanistan has continued, providing support to the Afghan government and military, including vital funding that keeps the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces functioning.

    “We remain committed to our Afghan partners,” Anderson said on Thursday. “They have paid a heavy price … They have in fact been doing most of the fighting since 2015 and we have been supporting them in our training, advise, and assist role. So, it is my view that going forward in Afghanistan, we absolutely need to continue to maintain a level of commitment in terms of our assistance to them so that they can continue to help defend their country.”

    The latest support effort is a $35.8 million contract extended by the Defense Logistics Agency to MD Helicopters, an Arizona-based aircraft manufacturer, to supply and maintain the Afghan Air Force’s 177 MD-530F Cayuse Warrior light attack helicopters. The US also provided a dozen MD-530s to Kenya earlier this year after a deadly incursion into the country by the Somali al-Shabaab militia.

    The nimble aircraft have been hailed as a game changer in the hilly Afghan countryside, with the US moving to supply Kabul with large numbers in recent years. However, late last year, the Pentagon made severe cuts to the planned delivery of UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, electing instead to offer CH-47 Chinook helicopters, which are primarily heavy-lifters, in an attempt to wean Kabul off its legacy Soviet-built choppers. 

    According to Stars and Stripes, the US has spent $8.5 billion on the Afghan Air Force alone.

    Related:

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    Tags:
    Pentagon, violence, peace deal, Taliban, Afghanistan
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