The top US military commander in Afghanistan has vowed imminent “tidal wave of air power” in the 16-year war of attrition against the Taliban militants, boasting that “this is the beginning of the end for the Taliban.”
The remarks by Army Gen. John Nicholson came in an “elaborately staged ceremony” on Saturday at Kandahar Air Base showing off the delivery of used and refurbished Black Hawk combat helicopters supplied by the US as part of Washington’s new, open-ended policy of troop-surge in the country, purportedly geared towards ending the Afghan war rather than the previously proclaimed ‘nation-building,’ The Washington Post reported.
“We are with you in this fight, and we will stay with you,” Nicholson was quoted in the report, calling the war against terrorism “the most important fight in the world.”
This is while the commander of the US air advisory mission Brig. Gen. Philip Stewart, who was also present at the ceremony, referred to the Black Hawks and other American-supplied military aircraft on display at the Afghan air base as “a physical manifestation” of international commitment to the war.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani also attended the ceremony and hailed the country’s air force pilots as “the real champions” of the 16-year war in the impoverished country that was invaded by a US-led foreign military force in 2001 purportedly aimed at rooting out the Taliban insurgents.
Ghani further said now that the country’s air force capacity will be tripled under a new Afghan-US military initiative, along with doubling of the Afghan special operations forces, “terrorists will not triumph here.”
According to the daily, the event marked the formal launch of “an ambitious plan to modernize and expand the Afghan air force over the next five years.” It was also aimed at “reinforcing public support for the ongoing US and NATO military mission” following President Donald Trump’s August announcement of a new scheme that would add several thousand more American troops in Afghanistan.
As part of the plan, a variety of US military aircraft — including 159 UH 60 Black Hawks — are being supplied to Afghanistan by Washington, and a new group of Afghan combat pilots are being trained by American military and civilian advisers.
The deployment of the air assault and transport helicopters, however, will be gradual — with only six expected to be in full use with Afghan pilots by the end of next year, the report underlined, citing Afghan military commanders as saying that the increased air combat support is their greatest need.
The Washington Post further pointed out that all of the Black Hawks being supplied to Afghanistan “are from excess US Army stocks, refurbished and updated before being sent here,” adding that the total average cost involved is between $7 and $8 million per aircraft.