US President Joe Biden has reportedly ordered the US Air Force to carry out air strike against Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan using B-52 bombers and C-130 Specter gunships after the militants continued advancing towards major Afghan cities.
The B-52s are flying into Afghanistan from an airbase in Qatar, striking targets around key Afghan cities of Kandahar, Herat, and Lashkar Gah in Helmand province, the UK-based The Times reported Saturday citing unidentified sources.
The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress is a long-range, subsonic, jet-powered strategic bomber, which can carry up to 32 tons of bombs, the report noted, adding that the US military has further deployed armed Reaper drones and AC-130 gunships to target Taliban positions, flying at least five missions per day.
Citing “American defense sources” the report also emphasized that the US has “every intention” to continue with the airstrikes following the total withdrawal of its military forces from Afghanistan by August 31.
According to the British daily, the deployment of American bombers and gunships further highlights the degree of dependency of Afghan forces on US military support.
It also underlined that the Afghan air force still remains reliant on US-supplied aircraft, which are now left without spare parts and trained technicians following the departure of US contractors from the country.
The development has further raised questions about the reliability of persistent claims made over the years by the occupying US and NATO forces in Afghanistan that they have primarily been engaged in training Afghan government forces to independently safeguard the country’s security against various threats.
The report also pointed out that at least seven Afghan pilots had been killed after being targeted by Taliban militants, while others “are reportedly exhausted after relentless missions.”
While there has been no confirmation of the air strikes or possible damages by Taliban militants, Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Fawad Aman declared in a Twitter message on Saturday that the US B-52 bombers carried out airstrikes on Taliban militants in the capital of the Jawzjan province, Sheberghan, in northern Afghanistan, insisting that they inflicted significant damages on the insurgents.
"Taliban’s gathering was targeted by B-52 in #Shebergan city, Jawzjan province today evening at 6:30pm [14:00 GMT]. The #terrorists have suffered heavy casualties as a result of US Air Forces #airstrike," Aman tweeted.
The air strikes came after the Taliban captured on Friday the capitals of two Afghan provinces in a matter of 24 hours – the city of Sheberghan in Jawzjan and the city of Zaranj in Nimroz.
State Department urges US citizens to leave Afghanistan
Meanwhile, the US Embassy in Afghanistan issued a statement on Saturday calling on all American citizens to leave the country "immediately," adding that they should "not plan to rely on US government flights."
The embassy further insisted that all US citizens should leave using any available commercial flights, noting that they will offer loans for people who cannot afford to purchase a plane ticket.
It added that the travel advisory for Afghanistan is at level 4 due to what it described as "crime, terrorism, civil unrest, kidnapping, armed conflict and COVID-19."
The embassy also censured the Taliban's "violent new offensive against Afghan cities," without mentioning the fact that it was Washington that initiated peace negotiations with the notorious insurgents without even involving Afghanistan government officials.
The development came a day after the United Nations’ envoy to Afghanistan, Deborah Lyons, called on the Taliban to cease its attacks on major cities immediately, warning that the country was heading for “catastrophe, so serious that it would have few, if any parallels in this century.”
She said countries meeting with Taliban representatives should “insist on a general ceasefire” and a resumption of negotiations.
Taliban insurgents are now demanding “the lion’s share of power” in any new government in Afghanistan, according to the US special representative for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, who warned on Tuesday that Afghanistan’s situation was rapidly deteriorating.