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U.S. to Maintain Robust Over-the-Horizon Capability for Afghanistan if Needed

July 6, 2021 | BY David Vergun , DOD News

Following the safe and orderly drawdown of forces and equipment from Afghanistan by the end of August, the Defense Department plans to maintain robust over-the-horizon capability if needed, the Pentagon press secretary said.

John F. Kirby held a press briefing today, discussing Afghanistan support and assistance to the Department of Homeland Security at the Southwest border, as well as other topics.

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As for the over-the-horizon capability, Kirby said DOD is in active discussions with the State Department regarding the nature of what that capability will be. He mentioned that there's a carrier strike group in the region and facilities throughout the Middle East that could be useful if needed.

"Our commitment to the future of a stable and secure Afghanistan has not changed. It's just going to look different. We're just not going to be on the ground the way we are now," he said.

Kirby also discussed other bilateral activities with Afghanistan.

There are still contractors in Afghanistan providing support to their security forces and air force, he said. "We are actively working [on ways] in which that contract support can be done remotely or virtually or even physically outside the country."

A soldier works on a vehicle.
Suspension Repair
Army Sgt. Ray Serrato repairs the suspension of a U.S. Border Patrol vehicle at the Rio Grande City Border Patrol Station in Rio Grande City, Texas, Aug. 7, 2020.
Photo By: Air National Guard Staff Sgt. De’Jon Williams
VIRIN: 200807-Z-XR025-1019
Troops load a helicopter onto an aircraft.
Resolute Support
Aerial porters work with maintainers to load a CH-47 Chinook into a C-17 Globemaster III in support of the Resolute Support retrograde mission in Afghanistan, June 16, 2021.
Photo By: Army Sgt. 1st Class Corey Vandiver
VIRIN: 210616-A-FS762-017

There was coordination with Afghan leaders, both in government as well as in the Afghan security forces, about the eventual turnover of Bagram Airfield, the seventh and final base that the U.S. turned over to Afghan National Security Forces, he noted.

Today, U.S. Central Command provided a press release on the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan.

As of July 5, DOD has retrograded the equivalent of approximately 984 C-17 aircraft- loads of material out of Afghanistan and has turned over nearly 17,074 pieces of equipment to the Defense Logistics Agency for disposition, the release stated, noting that 90% of the entire withdrawal process has been completed.

A jet takes off from a carrier.
Deck Launch
An EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft, attached to the “Shadowhawks” of Electronic Attack Squadron 141, launches from the flight deck of aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan during flight operations in the Arabian Sea, July 2, 2021. The Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of naval operations and providing airpower to protect U.S. and coalition forces as they conduct drawdown operations from Afghanistan.
Photo By: Navy Seaman Oswald Felix Jr.
VIRIN: 210702-N-BR419-1018C

In other news, Kirby said Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III has approved a request from the Department of Homeland Security to extend DOD support to Customs and Border Protection on the Southwest U.S. border with Mexico into fiscal year 2022.

The department will provide up to 3,000 personnel to support DHS through the end of September 2022. The majority of these will be federalized National Guard personnel under the command and control of the U.S. Northern Command.