Fearing Taliban attacks on U.S-led coalition forces as they withdraw from Afghanistan, the Pentagon has beefed up its air support for the troops remaining in the country.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Army General Mark Milley, appearing with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon Thursday, said that a dozen aircraft will augment the withdrawal task force. In addition to two more B-52 bombers, now totaling six in Qatar, F-18 aircraft will also join the task force. The force also includes the USS Dwight Eisenhower aircraft carrier in the Arabian Sea.

Further, Milley said that the Afghans are capable of standing up to the Taliban without the support of the U.S.-coalition.

“They’re fighting for their own country now, so it’s not a foregone conclusion, in my professional military estimate, that the Taliban automatically win and Kabul falls, or any of those kinds of dire predictions,” Milley said. 

“That’s not a foregone conclusion. There’s a significant military capability in the Afghan government. We have to see how this plays out.”

Not Everyone Agrees With General Milley

This contrasts with the not-so-rosy assessment of Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, who told Congress two weeks ago that the Afghan army “will certainly collapse” without coalition support.

“I am concerned about the Afghan military’s ability to hold on after we leave.”  

A B-52 bomber sits on an airfield in Qatar. The Pentagon has moved six B-52s to Qatar to cover the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan. (USAF photo)

Austin added that holding off the Taliban without the U.S. support “will be a challenge” for the Afghans. Nevertheless, he mentioned that a government counterattack in Lashkar Gah, the capital of the restive Helmand province, is being conducted “fairly well.”