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

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

At least 455 Taliban militants were killed and 232  others injured in multiple airstrikes and fierce battles in Afghanistan in the past 24 hours, the Ministry of Defence said on Sunday.

Buoyant with the air strikes provided by the US, the Afghanistan forces have been on the offensive mode against the Taliban fighters.  According to the Afghan defence ministry, on Sunday ,the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) launched operations in 14 provinces against the Taliban killing hundreds of its fighters.

The heavy deployment of the US B-52 bombers was the key to the ANDSF’s gains.

According to the Afghan sources, B-52 bombers neutralised the Taliban’s advancement on the outskirts of Herat city.

“All flights to Herat have been cancelled due to the fighting and the information we have received suggest that a B-52 was used in the fighting yesterday (Friday) in Herat,” provincial lawmaker Habib Ur Rahman Pedram told Arab News.

Also Read :  US brings B-52 bombers back into action as Taliban sweep across Afghanistan

Citing the Afghan sources, the paper says that the US B-52 bombers were seen in Taliban strongholds. On Friday, one bomber was “reported”  in Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital of southern Helmand province where the intense  fighting between Taliban and government forces is going on. In Kandahar province, the bomber  hit a group of Taliban fighters in Spin Boldak bordering Pakistan “killing scores of them.” Air strikes were also reported in the Nangarhar region which houses the famous Tora Bora caves, where the B-52 bombers  pinned down Osama bin Laden and other key al-Qaeda leaders in late 2001 before he managed to slip into neighbouring Pakistan.

As the intensity of war between the Taliban and the Afghan army on the rise, the US military had indicated last week that it will continue to support the Afghan forces  with airstrikes “indefinitely”, despite previously saying it would halt these operations by the end of August.

The new US CENTCOM Commander Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, had said that the US will  provide robust and persistent airpower from  “over the horizon”. 

“We will continue to provide airstrikes in defence of ANDSF forces under attack by the Taliban, contract logistic support both here in Kabul and over-the-horizon in the region, funding for them, intelligence sharing and advising and assisting through security consultation at the strategic level,” he promised.

Also Read :  US signal to extend aerial bombings beyond August 31 in Afghanistan is bad news for Taliban

The return of the B-52s to the Afghan theatre comes after talks between US president Joe Biden and the Afghan president Ashraf Ghani last week where Biden declared that, “Taliban’s current offensive is in direct contradiction to the movement's claim to support a negotiated settlement of the conflict.”  Biden had reportedly assured Ghani that air power be used more proactively to support the Afghan forces in fending off a resilient Taliban insurgency.

"President Biden reassured me that support for the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) will continue. We have confidence that they will protect and defend Afghanistan,” Ghani tweeted.

The US B-52 bombers played a crucial role in toppling the Taliban from power in late 2001, with the US using its bases in the Gulf regions to carry out strikes. But this time, the US might be using its Qatar air base as the new Defence Security Cooperation Management Office-Afghanistan has relocated to  its base  from Afghanistan to  Qatar to assist Afghan forces, including providing maintenance help.

Qatar has provided its Al Dhafra air base to the US. The most direct route between Al Dhafra and Afghanistan that is available to American combat aircraft involves flying out over the Gulf of Oman and into the North Arabian Sea, before turning north, traveling first over Pakistan. It's a round trip that's easily over 2,000 miles long, regardless of where in Afghanistan the aircraft are actually headed.