The Taliban reacted to news of expanded authority for U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan by claiming that the American air campaign against them never really ended, it has done nothing to break their resolve, and they will deliver “harsh” retaliation for intensified bombing.
“U.S. airstrikes have continued against our countrymen from the onset of the [foreign] invasion. There has been no cessation, so talk of restart is hollow,” said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, as quoted by Voice of America News.
“The Afghan Mujahid nation is now used to airstrikes. Continuation of bombings cannot break the will of this nation nor subdue them,” Mujahid added.
VOA quotes U.S. military spokesman Brigadier General Charles Cleveland saying upgraded airstrikes would be combined with “Afghan operations over a period of time” to achieve the desired “strategic effect.” He predicted the pace of combat in Afghanistan, slowed during the Muslim holiday month of Ramadan, would intensify in July.
An airstrike reportedly killed senior Taliban commander Qari Gahfour in northern Afghanistan on Sunday, along with at least 14 of his fighters. According to a report at Stars & Stripes, U.S. officials in Kabul declined to comment on the strike, or specify whether it was conducted by American or Afghan forces.
“Afghan media reports said Monday that another top Taliban commander in nearby Faryab province had surrendered to government forces amid ongoing military operations there,” Stars & Stripes added. These are among the first Taliban losses credited to the expanded authority for U.S. airstrikes, which went into effect on Friday.
However, the Stars & Stripes report noted that while NATO and Afghan officials frequently report high death tolls from strikes against the Taliban, “those casualties have not yet had significant effect on the guerrillas’ ability to wage the war or on their recruitment efforts.”