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Are heavy B-52 bombings by the US a turning point in Afghanistan’s civil war?

US sends B-52 bombers to stop Taliban from seizing Afghan cities

Since Saturday,  the US has been  “unleashing” its air power to  thwart the Taliban’s forward march across Afghanistan. According to the Afghan Defence ministry, on Saturday evening,  the US B-52 bombers targeted Taliban’s camps in Sheberghan, the capital of Jawzjan province.

Fawad Aman, the deputy spokesperson claimed that more than 200 Taliban fighters had been killed in the massive air bombardment in Sheberghan. Large quantities of weapons and ammunition, as well as hundreds of Taliban vehicles, were destroyed. The defence sources told the media that earlier the US bombers were bombing in Herat, Kandahar and Helmand regions but now B-52 bombers, helicopter gunships and UAV MQ9 have been  mobilised in a massive assault both in the country’s  North-East and the North-West.

B-52 bombers are  being supported by the AC-130 Spectre gunships which are armed with a 25mm Gatling gun, a 40mm Bofors cannon and a 105mm M102 cannon – which can provide pinpoint accurate fire from the air. The use of the AC-130 gunship has caused some “speculations” among experts.

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“The return of the AC-130, however, is a big deal, as they usually only go with NATO Special Operations ground troops. AC-130s wouldn’t fly from bases abroad or the US just to drop bombs in support of the Afghan Army. Has the US sent ground forces back into Afghanistan,” wondered one expert?

According to the senior Afghan journalist, Bilal Sarwary, “the situation has changed drastically- the fact that American bombers are striking inside the city of Sheberghan. This is what they did in 2001 when the Americans toppled the Taliban government,” he wrote on social media.

Sheberghan is a stronghold of the former Afghan vice-president and warlord, Abdul Rashid Dostum, whose militias along  with the Afghan army have been leading the fight against the Taliban. Dostum returned last week after treatment in Turkey and had met the Afghan president Ashraf Ghani. He  has proposed a martial law in Afghanistan and Ghani has reportedly  welcomed the suggestion.

 “It is time to work with the security and defence forces to improve the security situation of the country and defend the values and stand against the enemy,” Dostum said after the meeting.

According to Afghan media, fierce fighting is going on between the Afghan forces and the Taliban around the city.

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The fresh onslaught of American airpower comes at a time when  the Taliban are making  territorial gains throughout Afghanistan in the wake of the near-total departure of the US forces ordered by President Biden. Now the fresh order by Biden to use B-52 bombers and Spectre gunships to target Taliban terrorists across the country underlines the reversal of Pentagon’s decision, not only to halt the Taliban but also to help the struggling Afghan air force beyond the beyond the  August 31. According to the Doha accords, the US had agreed to launch aerial strikes only against international terror groups such as Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, sparing the Taliban from aerial bombardment from September 1. 

The  nypost.com citing a Times report said that  “the defence sources insisted that there was every intention to continue with the airstrikes after August 31, the date set for the withdrawal of the last remaining US troops in Afghanistan.”

According to the report, the US warship,  nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, is already stationed in the Arabian Sea and is contributing “its F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets to the missions. Lockheed AC-130 Spectre attack planes, dubbed “the world’s deadliest gunship” are already in the fray.

B-52s lead new US airpower onslaught to stop Taliban advances in Afghanistan

Meanwhile the US air force launched a series of strikes dropping precision-guided munitions on Taliban fighting positions in the Southwestern province of Nimroz along  the Afghanistan-Iran border. On Friday, the Taliban claimed to have taken control of the southwestern Nimroz provincial capital Zaranj and the government said that Afghan forces were battling insurgents outside the capital. This should concern both India and Iran as the Zaranj falls smack on the India developed road from the Iranian port of Chabahar, heading north to Herat, giving landlocked Afghanistan an access to the sea.

The situation in Afghanistan has been worsening every day and it was reflected in the statement issued by the UNSC after the special UNSC session held on Friday under the chairmanship of India.  Deborah Lyons, the special representative of the UN secretary-general for Afghanistan, warned that without action, the country could descend “into a situation of catastrophe so serious that it would have few, if any, parallels in this century.”

Also read:  B-52 bombers blunt Taliban’s advance in Herat, other cities

“As one Afghan put it to us recently, ‘We are no longer talking about preserving the progress and the rights we have gained, we are talking about mere survival,” she said.

Meanwhile, the US fighter jets have been flying over Pakistani airspace and continuing pounding on the Taliban in Afghanistan.