Kabul, 15 Jumadil Akhir 1434/25 April 2013 (MINA) – U.S. military command on Afghanistan, Wednesday confirmed (24/4), one of the major elements of Afghanistan’s air war, armed drones operated by U.S. will remain after most U.S. troops have headed home, according to Khaama Press report monitored by Mi’raj News Agency (MINA).
“I come back to the remotely piloted aircraft. They can collect intelligence, but they also are armed. And they’re armed to be able to provide force protection to our coalition forces,” Air Force Maj. Gen. H.D. Polumbo, the commander of the U.S./NATO air war over Afghanistan, told reporters.
“And then when our coalition ground force commanders, when they deem it appropriate, they can control that air-delivered munition capability from the RPAs to be put in support of the Afghans.”
The drones will not be the only air support available to the Afghan army after 2014, when most U.S. forces are slated to leave Afghanistan. But only “some fixed wing” manned fighters and bombers will remain on the battlefield, Polumbo said.
One of the reasons the drones will stay above Afghanistan right now, Polumbo said, the Afghan army lacks aircraft for close air support during firefights with the Taliban.
Polumbo didn’t specify how many drones would be available for this post-Afghanistan war phase, nor which specific models would be used if approved.
He also added that it will take years before the Afghans are trained on the Super Tucanos, expected to arrive in Afghanistan next year.
As the NATO-led coalition security forces including US troops are preparing to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014, however the US military is planning to have armed presence over Afghan skies.
But such presence would entirely depend once the two nations reach an agreement in ongoing talks over security pact. (T/P09/E1)
Mi’raj News Agency (MINA).