American Airstrikes Take Down 12 al-Qaeda and Taliban Operators

American airstrikes have killed a dozen al-Qaeda and Taliban members in Syria and Afghanistan since Thursday.

On Monday, U.S. Forces-Afghanistan spokesman Col. Sonny Leggett confirmed that American troops had conducted a strike in defense of Afghan troops. The operation killed five Taliban fighters and had no civilian casualties.

The same day, U.S. Central Command spokeswoman Maj. Beth Riordan confirmed an airstrike that killed seven al-Qaeda in Syria (AQ-S) operators.

“The removal of these AQ-S leaders will disrupt the terrorist organization’s ability to further plot and carry out global attacks threatening U.S. citizens, our partners, and innocent civilians,” Riordan said.

Reports of these strikes come soon after another major blow to al-Qaeda. On Sunday, Afghan forces confirmed the death of group propaganda chief Husam Abd al-Rauf, a top aide to leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.

While al-Qaeda and the Taliban claim not to be working together, especially in light of February’s U.S.-Taliban peace agreement, reports of al-Rauf’s death may expose cooperation between the groups. Al-Rauf appeared to have been hiding in a Taliban-controlled area, which the group did not deny in a statement.

The American airstrikes come as the Pentagon plans to decrease its military commitment to Afghanistan.

After a back-and-forth between President Trump and national security adviser Robert O’Brien, the Pentagon appears to be planning on an extended, conditions-based timetable for withdrawing the full contingent of American troops from Afghanistan.

At present, more than 4,000 American troops remain in the country to keep tabs on Taliban and al-Qaeda threats and support Afghan security forces.

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