By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (June 02, 2021) -- Following the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the U.S. plans to continue providing financial support to the Afghans and to build on existing "over-the-horizon" anti-terrorism capacity in the region.
"I want to stress ... that, right now, the focus of the post-withdrawal support to the Afghan ... National Defense and Security Forces is going to be largely through financial means, with some over-the-horizon logistical support," Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said during a media briefing today. "For example, aircraft maintenance, that's really where the focus of the efforts are."
Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the commander of U.S. Central Command, and his staff are working now to develop that plan in Afghanistan before the U.S. leaves, Kirby said. The Defense Department is also working with the State Department regarding the diplomatic efforts required for over-the-horizon basing opportunities in the region.
Financial support for the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces -- meant to provide resources for such things as salaries for soldiers and police -- is expected to continue much as it has for most of the last 15 years, Kirby said.
Over-the-horizon capacity includes the ability to continue to protect the United States from the terrorist threats that exist in any nation in the region, even if the U.S. is not specifically in that country. The U.S. already has such capabilities in the Middle East, and more will come.
"We already have at our disposal over-the-horizon counterterrorism capabilities to support our desires that no additional threats to our homeland can emanate from Afghanistan," Kirby said. "That said ... we want to have additional capabilities, and we're working through that."
Kirby also explained why it's important, once the U.S. leaves Afghanistan, that the airport in Kabul remains secure and open to operations.
"The airport would provide, obviously, aside from the transportation support for people and for equipment ... it would also provide a needed logistical hub, not just for our embassy, but for the embassies of other nations that want to maintain diplomatic presence there in Afghanistan," he said. "Obviously, in a country like Afghanistan, security of that logistical hub is important, and you want to make sure that, that it can ... be properly ensured and protected."
Centcom is now working to get U.S. forces out of Afghanistan. Yesterday, the command reported that nearly 13,000 pieces of gear have been turned into the Defense Logistics Agency there, and around 300 C-17 loads of materiel have been moved out of the country. The command has also turned six facilities over to the Afghan Ministry of Defense. The command estimates that the retrograde from Afghanistan is between 30% and 44% complete.