The Defense Department is pushing in 650 troops from the Army’s Ranger Regiment to cover the Afghanistan withdrawal. The Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment already has some troops in the country as part of the ongoing Joint Special Operations deployment.

CNN was the first to report that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin approved the move last week. 

Furthermore, as part of the force protection, Austin approved the deployment of two B-52 bombers. They will join two more that are already deployed to Qatar as well as an AC-130 USAF Special Operations gunship. Austin also approved the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower’s deployment extension.

President Biden has announced that all U.S. troops will have withdrawn from Afghanistan by September 11.

As U.S. and coalition troops withdraw from the farthest regions of Afghanistan’s southern and eastern areas, they’ll be more vulnerable to Taliban attacks. Having the Rangers and close air support on station would alleviate the threat. 

The Message to the Taliban Is Clear

If they attempt to attack withdrawing U.S. troops, the Rangers will not hesitate to eliminate the threat. The Taliban are intimately familiar with the Rangers and have suffered considerable casualties at their hands. Thus, it is no coincidence that Austin chose the Rangers who are among the world’s best light infantry. Furthermore, the AC-130s, B-52s, and the Eisenhower’s aircraft would give any enemy pause.

Nevertheless, there is no guarantee that the Taliban won’t attack.

Pentagon spokesman John F. Kirby wouldn’t confirm the details of the deployment. “We want to be careful about some elements of our ability to provide force protection, [but the] addition of posture in Afghanistan to assist with this drawdown” is to be expected.

Afghanistan Combat Operations 2019
A Ranger during a combat operation in Afghanistan. (Photo by Sgt. Jaerett Engeseth/U.S. Army)

Commander of Resolute Support and U.S. Forces-Afghanistan General Austin Scott Miller said during a press conference on Sunday that the withdrawal of U.S. forces has already begun.

“All of our forces are now preparing to retrograde. Officially the notification date will be the first of May, but at the same time as we start taking local actions we have already begun that,” Miller said.

“We have the military means to respond forcefully to any type of attacks against the coalition and the military means to support the Afghan security forces. If the Taliban attack U.S. or any coalition forces, we will have a forceful response,” he added.

The fate of the U.S. equipment in the country is also of importance. The U.S. will either bring back equipment, turn it over to Afghan forces, or, in some cases, destroy it in place. 

Afghanistan Combat Operations 2019
U.S. special operations servicemembers conduct combat operations in support of Operation Resolute Support in Southeast Afghanistan, May 2019. (Photo by Sgt. Jaerett Engeseth/U.S. Army)

Conventional forces and their equipment will be the first to withdraw; Joint Special Operations troops will be the last.

The U.S. Will Not Abandon the Afghans to Their Fate

CENTCOM Commander General Frank McKenzie, told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee last week that the U.S. would seek a way to continue counter-terrorism missions in Afghanistan at least through the use of manned and unmanned aircraft. Also, the U.S. will seek to carry out surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

“We will have an architecture in the theater that will allow us to look into Afghanistan,” McKenzie said.

“It will not give us the same picture that we have now. It will allow us to see in. The ranges will be greater, the resources will be greater, the risks will all be greater, but it will be possible to do those again. It is certainly not impossible, but we won’t have the vision we have now.” 

The war in Afghanistan began with Special Forces A-Teams and CIA paramilitary forces deploying just weeks after 9/11. And now, 19 years later, special operations troops of the Ranger Regiment will be among the last American troops in Afghanistan.