A top US military commander is seeking Pentagon approval to deploy an aircraft carrier near Afghanistan to help cover troops during their withdrawal from the country in coming months, two senior defense officials told NBC News on Wednesday, reported CNBC.
Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command’s request comes by way of information that the Taliban has previously hinted at the possibility that they could target US led forces after May 1.
A US aircraft carrier, loaded with fighting aircraft at the ready, is well suited to provide protection to both US and NATO troops if the Taliban elected to fire upon them during their departure from Afghanistan. The exit is currently scheduled to occur on or before Sept. 11.
Although the Pentagon has said the number of troops in Afghanistan could temporarily increase to help with the withdrawal, this is an occurrence that is common under these circumstances,.
It is common for the United States military to use aircraft carriers or other warships to protect troops during sensitive missions like troop withdrawals. The Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier is deployed and is currently in the Middle East, reported Reuters.
The commander’s request for troop protection is still being considered and a decision on whether to grant his request is still pending, “There has been no specific decision about additional assets at this time,” an official said, according to CNBC.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has made clear the U.S. troop pullout would be carried out in a safe and orderly way, the official continued.
At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Thursday, Gen. McKenzie said more troops and resources would be deployed to safeguard the forces leaving Afghanistan. “I’m confident that we will have the force necessary to protect our forces should the Taliban decide to begin attacking us on [May 1] or any other date,” he said, at House hearing on Tuesday, CNBC reported.
McKenzie added: “We will defend ourselves.... We are ready for whatever they choose to do.”
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