The US military may have destroyed some of its helicopters and other weapons in Afghanistan as relocating them before August 31 would not be possible. Washington has set the August 31 deadline to complete the troop withdrawal process from the war-ravaged country.
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The Pentagon has already cited logistical hurdles in transporting some of the heavy weapons from Kabul to other US military bases. This means the American troops have to either destroy or disable the military choppers such as the CH-46E Sea Knight stationed in Kabul.
US President Joe Biden said the evacuation process will be completed by August 31. Earlier, he had set a September 11 deadline keeping in mind the greater risks involved if the US forces stay in Afghanistan for a longer duration.
John Kirby, Pentagon Press Secretary, along with US Army Major General Hank Taylor, the Director of Current Operations within the Office of the Joint Staff, shared more details on this at a recent press briefing.
Kirby made it clear that unless there are some major changes with respect to the situation in Afghanistan, the withdrawal process is scheduled to be completed by next Tuesday.
“The drawdown of both people and equipment will be done in the same manner that we would do it anywhere else”, he said. “Obviously, there’s a strong bias to be able to get our material out with our people.
If there needs to be destruction or other disposition of equipment there at Hamid Karzai International Airport then do that and we’ll do that appropriately,” he told reporters.
Even though Kirby did not specify what equipment and weapons the US forces will destroy, according to BBC, the American troops have destroyed some ammunition at the Bagram Air Base before they vacated the place in July. However, they extracted all helicopters at that time.
The Times, a UK-based daily, reported that “only helicopters known to have been destroyed in the US withdrawal have been seven CH-46E Sea Knights used by the State Department at the American embassy in Kabul.
Those helicopters, belonging to the State Department air wing, along with light armored vehicles at the embassy, were disabled or destroyed after the 4,000 staff had been evacuated, the newspaper said.
According to The New York Times, the US forces had destroyed an unspecified Counter-Rockets, Artillery, and Mortars (C-RAM) defense system. Along with this, light armored vehicles were also abandoned after they were rendered inoperable.
A weapon system intended to protect the embassy from incoming rockets, artillery and mortars (C-RAM) is seen burning in one of the videos. “Unfortunately,” one contractor told me, it was destroyed in place because “they were needed until the bitter end.”
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It is still unclear whether the US forces will destroy any remaining aircraft or other weapons at the Hamid Karzai International Airport.
Further reports have also suggested that the US government is thinking of conducting airstrikes to destroy the American military equipment seized by the Taliban.
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John Kirby had also issued a statement in which he said that “several hundred US troops, described as a mix of headquarters staff, maintenance and other enabling functions that were scheduled to leave and whose mission at the airport was complete, have withdrawn from Afghanistan”.
He further stated that this movement of American troops should not be mistaken with the total withdrawal of the US forces who are supervising the evacuation process. “More than 5,000 US troops still remain at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul”, he said.
(Written by Kashish Tandon/EurAsian Times Desk)