US officials said at least 50 Taliban leaders were killed in last week’s rocket artillery strike in Helmand.
At Least 50 Taliban Leaders Killed In HIMARS Strike: US
A US rocket artillery strike last week on a gathering of Taliban leaders in southern Afghanistan killed at least 50 of them, a US military official said Tuesday.
According to AP, Lt. Col. Martin O'Donnell, a spokesman for the US-led coalition in Afghanistan, said a weapon system known as the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, which is capable of firing GPS-guided rockets, destroyed a command-and-control position that was a known meeting place for high-level Taliban leaders. He said at least 50 leaders were killed.
Additional, unspecified numbers of Taliban officials were also killed in US airstrikes over a recent 10-day period, the spokesman said.
Thursday’s rocket artillery attack in the Musa Qala district of Helmand province was announced by the US military last week, but without a public estimate of the numbers killed.
O'Donnell said that because of the large number of leaders killed and their involvement in a range of attack planning, the impact of the HIMARS strike "will be felt beyond Helmand province." He called it an example of how the US military is using expanded authorities granted as part of the Trump administration's new regional strategy for fighting the Afghanistan war, allowing US forces to take a more active role in combat.
Last week, a US government watchdog group said the administration's revamped strategy has made little progress against the Taliban insurgency, leaving the country a "dangerous and volatile" place nearly 17 years after the US invaded. That conclusion contrasts with assertions last fall by the American military that the Afghans, with US support, had "turned the corner" and captured momentum against the Taliban, which it called fractured and desperate.
The report to Congress by inspectors general of the Pentagon, the State Department and the US Agency for International Development also cast doubt on the administration's decision to send a new set of military advisers this year to work with Afghan forces closer to the front lines. It said this, combined with stepped-up Afghan offensives, "further raises the risk of civilian casualties, insider attacks, US casualties, and other conflict-related violence."
The Trump administration's revamped Afghanistan strategy has made little progress against the Taliban insurgency, leaving the country a "dangerous and volatile" place nearly 17 years after the US invaded, a government watchdog report said Monday.
In a statement issued by US Forces-Afghanistan on Thursday evening, after the strike, USFOR-A said troops used the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, against a structure known to be a meeting location for prominent Taliban leaders, where they planned and facilitated attacks against Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, who are supporting election security in the area.
"One way we support our Afghan partners is with kinetic strikes so that they are able to maintain the offensive,” said US Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Benjamin T. Watson, Task Force-Southwest commander.
"Strikes like this one not only degrade Taliban operations, but also give our partners the ability to maintain continuous pressure against a weakened enemy,” he said.