- The Biden administration has pledged to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan by September 11.
- But the NYT reported the Pentagon is considering keeping the option of airstrikes even after withdrawal.
- The talks suggest concern over whether Afghan forces can contain the Taliban without US troops.
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The Pentagon is looking into the possibility of supporting Afghan forces with airstrikes depending on the threat of the Taliban taking control over a major city in the country, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
President Joe Biden has pledged to end the US involvement in the conflict, promising to withdraw all American troops by September 11, but the recent consideration over airstrikes puts a strain on that goal.
The Times reported the Biden administration initially planned to end US air support when troops were withdrawn, but that concern over the consequences of withdrawal has prompted them to reconsider.
Officials told The Times no decisions have been made but that there are active talks over what a US response would look like should the Taliban capitalize on US withdrawal and move in to threaten takeover of a major city, especially Kabul, the capital.
In April, the Biden administration made the controversial announcement that American troops would be out of Afghanistan by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks that pulled the US into the war. The Trump administration had previously set a deadline of May 1 following a deal negotiated with the Taliban.
"We were attacked. We went to war with clear goals. We achieved those objectives," Biden said when the new deadline was announced. "Bin Laden is dead and al Qaeda is degraded in Afghanistan and it's time to end the forever war."
Critics of withdrawal plans, including top Republican lawmakers, argued that leaving zero troops in the region would embolden radical Islamists and risk progress that had been made.
"President Biden will have, in essence, canceled an insurance policy against another 9/11," Sen. Lindsay Graham said of the plans to withdraw. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said withdrawal would be a "grave mistake" and a "gift" to US enemies.
The Times reported the latest discussions at the Pentagon of maintaining the possibility of air support echo concerns that Afghan forces will struggle to contain the Taliban once US ground forces are gone.
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