US troops in Afghanistan are targeting enemies inside Afghanistan only but don’t have authorities to conduct operations in Pakistan, a top US military official told a press briefing.
Brigadier General Lance Bunch (USAF), director for NATO's Resolute Support mission, Future Operations, US Central Command, Kabul was briefing the press through a video conference from Afghanistan on Tuesday. He was asked specifically if the US has the authority to conduct strike in Pakistan.
“We are only doing targeting inside of Afghanistan, inside of the combined joint operation areas in Afghanistan. And we are not, we don’t have the authorities nor are we conducting operations in Pakistan,” Brigadier Bunch said.
Responding to a question as to what US forces were doing to disrupt the flow of militants into Pakistan, Brigadier Bunch said that the US troops were looking for any opportunity to target the enemies of Afghanistan wherever they find them.
Giving an overview of the situation on the ground in the wake of the new US strategy in the region, Brigadier Bunch said that Afghanistan was the single largest collection of violent extremist organizations in the world for the US troops.
He said that ISIS militants were reported to be present in Nangarhar, Kunar and as per the assessment their numbers were may be in thousands. Taliban militants, he added, had pockets around the entire country.
“What I can tell you is that the new strategy highlights that this is a new war. And that the gloves are off, if you will, and that we’ve got now these authorities we need to be able to go and target the Taliban network,” he added.
Bunch said the United States, Afghanistan and international allies are looking for opportunities to disrupt the Taliban's ability to fund their operations, recruit fighters and buy weapons, which he said will prevent the insurgent group's ability to reset in the upcoming months.
"It's only just begun, and it's going to be a long winter for the Taliban," he said.