Carrying out airstrikes against terrorist hideouts in Afghanistan without a US troop presence in the country will be difficult but “not impossible”, the commander of US Central Command General Frank McKenzie said on Tuesday.
Speaking to the House Armed Services Committee, McKenzie said he is in the midst of “detailed planning” for options for so-called “over the horizon” forces, or forces positioned elsewhere in the region that could continue counterterrorism strikes in Afghanistan.
He said he plans to give Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin those options by the end of the month.
“If you leave Afghanistan and you want to go back in to conduct these kinds of operations, there are three things you need to do: you need to find the target, you need to fix the target, and you need to be able to finish the target,” McKenzie said.
“The first two require heavy intelligence support. If you’re out of the country, and you don’t have the ecosystem that we have there now, it will be harder to do that. It is not impossible to do that.”
McKenzie’s testimony comes almost a week after President Joe Biden announced he was withdrawing all US troops from Afghanistan and that they would all be home by September 11 – the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States.
According to The Hill, Biden’s decision came despite repeated statements from US military officials that the Taliban was not yet upholding its end of a deal made during the Trump administration to reduce violence and break from al-Qaeda, as well as warnings about the potential for chaos in Afghanistan that could allow an al-Qaeda resurgence should US troops withdraw.
Meanwhile, McKenzie’s comments about the difficulty of intelligence gathering without a troop presence echo comments last week from CIA Director William Burns, who told senators the ability to collect intelligence on threats in Afghanistan will “diminish” with a US military withdrawal, the Hill reported.
On Tuesday, McKenzie also said he continues to have “grave doubts” about the Taliban’s reliability in upholding its commitments under the deal signed last year.
McKenzie declined to tell lawmakers how he advised Biden as the president deliberated the withdrawal, but said he had “multiple opportunities” to provide Biden with his perspective.
The Hill reported that speaking broadly about options to continue strikes once US troops leave, McKenzie said surveillance drones could be positioned in a place where they can reach Afghanistan “in a matter of minutes” or ”perhaps much further away.”
“We will look at all the countries in the region, our diplomats will reach out, and we’ll talk about places where we could base those resources,” he said.
“Some of them may be very far away, and then there would be a significant bill for those types of resources because you’d have to cycle a lot of them in and out. That is all doable, however.”
Right now, McKenzie added, the United States does not have any basing agreements with Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan or other countries surrounding Afghanistan.
McKenzie also said there are a “variety of ways” to strike targets, including long-range precision fire missiles, manned raids or manned aircraft.
“There are problems with all three of those options, but there’s also opportunities with all three of those options,” he said.
“I don’t want to make light of it. I don’t want to put on rose-colored glasses and say it’s going to be easy to do. I can tell you that the U.S. military can do just about anything. And we’re examining this problem with all of our resources right now to find a way to do it in the most intelligent, risk-free manner that we can.”
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley are also scheduled to brief the full House and Senate behind closed doors later Tuesday on Biden’s plan for Afghanistan.
Desert Vipers pull off exciting 12-run win over Dubai Capitals to regain top slot
Desert Vipers pulled off an exciting 12-run victory over Dubai Capitals in the 20th match of the ILT20 at the Dubai International Stadium on Saturday night to regain the top position in the points table.
While Desert Vipers could post only a moderate total of 149 for 9 through a captain’s knock of 40 off 32 balls with two boundaries and two sixes from Colin Munro, Dubai Capitals were restricted to 137 for 5 in 20 overs through a splendid and accurate bowling by Rohan Mustafa (2 for 27) backed well by Matheesha Pathirana and Tom Curran.
For Dubai Capitals, Adam Zampa playing his first match, bowled brilliantly and took three wickets for 16 to bag the Player of the match award.
Dubai Capitals remain in fifth slot with two victories and four defeats and only five points.
Speaking about their performance, Desert Vipers’ Rohan Mustafa said after the match: “The Dubai Capitals bowled really well towards the end of our innings. Credit to them. It wasn’t an easy wicket to bat on. I thought we had enough on the board at the end of our innings.”
Meanwhile, Dubai Capitals’ Adam Zampa said: “Tom Curran and Matheesha Pathirana bowled impressively for the Vipers. The batting group will talk about what they can do better and think about what they could do if they find themselves in the same situation again.”
Earlier in the day, Rahmanullah Gurbaz played a fantastic innings of 56 runs from 39 balls to help the Sharjah Warriors register a four-wicket victory over Abu Dhabi Knight Riders at the same stadium.
The Warriors restricted the Knight Riders to 149 for four in their 20 overs and then chased down their target in 17 overs.
Speaking about their performance, Sharjah Warriors’ captain Joe Denly said: “Our bowlers set the tone for the whole game. We never let them get away when they were batting. I thought 150 was a very reasonable score. We are a confident group at the moment and we have a couple of days to recharge and then come back strong in Sharjah.”
Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi Knight Riders’ Akeal Hosein said after the match: “I thought we were 15 runs short with the bat. The Warriors got off to a great start in the powerplay, which allowed them to cruise through in the middle period of the game. We’ve had decent performances with bat and ball, but we haven’t put everything together as a team.”
Desert Vipers secure 7 wicket win against MI Emirates
Alex Hales and Sherfane Rutherford’s sparkling unbeaten half centuries and skipper Colin Munro’s cameo knock carried Desert Vipers past MI Emirates in the 15th match of the DP World ILT20 at the Zayed Cricket Stadium on Tuesday night.
Desert Vipers, through a fine display of intelligent bowling, had also restricted MI Emirates to 169 for 5 despite half centuries from Kieron Pollard and Nicholas Pooran.
Hales hit an unbeaten 62 runs off 44 balls with six boundaries and two sixes while Sherfane Rutherford scored a breezy unbeaten 56 off 29 balls with four boundaries and three sixes to put on an unbeaten 94 off 52 balls for the fourth wicket.
Desert Vipers’ skipper Colin Munro set the momentum through a fine knock of 41 runs off 22 balls with four boundaries and three sixes.
Speaking about their performance Desert Vipers’ Sherfane Rutherford said: “I want to keep things simple and just watch the ball. I was just trying to react to the ball. The key was just to use the pace and that worked for me.”
Meanwhile, MI Emirates’ Trent Boult said: “It becomes easier to bat on in the second innings here. I thought they played extremely well. They timed their innings quite nicely. That’s a luxury when you’re chasing 170.”
Iranian arrested in Germany, suspected of plotting chemical attack
A 32-year-old Iranian man has been arrested in Germany on suspicion of planning an attack with deadly chemicals, officials said Sunday.
Police and prosecutors said the man and another person were detained overnight in the town of Castrop-Rauxel, northwest of Dortmund.
In a joint statement they said the man is suspected to have planned a serious attack motivated by Islamic extremism, for which he had allegedly obtained the potent toxins cyanide and ricin, the Associated Press reported.
German news agency dpa reported that specialists wearing anti-contamination suits carried evidence out of the man’s home.
Tabloid newspaper Bild reported that German authorities had received a tip from an allied intelligence agency about the alleged plans for a chemical attack.
Five years ago, German police arrested a Tunisian man and his wife on suspicion of planning to carry out a ricin attack in the name of the Islamic State (ISIS) group. They were later found guilty and sentenced to 10 and eight years’ imprisonment, respectively.
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