The head of US forces in the Middle East said on Thursday that he was concerned about the ability of the Afghan security forces to hold territory after the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the country in the coming months.
President Joe Biden announced last week that the United States will withdraw its remaining 2,500 troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the al Qaeda attacks that triggered America’s longest war.
“My concern is the ability of the Afghan military to hold the ground that they’re on now without the support that they’ve been used to for many years,” Marine General Kenneth McKenzie, head of US Central Command, said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.
“I am concerned about the ability of the Afghan military to hold on after we leave, the ability of the Afghan Air Force to fly, in particular, after we remove the support for those aircraft,” McKenzie added.
The Pentagon has said it is looking to fund key Afghan military capabilities, including the air force, and seeking to continue paying the salaries of Afghan security forces.
But US officials have long been concerned about corruption in the security forces and questioned how they would be able to hold back Taliban insurgents, which McKenzie said number 50,000, without American air support and intelligence capabilities.