WASHINGTON: US troops in Afghanistan are targeting enemies inside Afghanistan 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 Future Operations, Headquarters Resolute Support, 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.
He said earlier the American troops could only target essentially in defence or in close proximity to Afghan forces, but now under the new authorities, the American troops were able to target militant networks and not just individual fighters.
To another question, the US general said that the role of Pakistan or India in the future with Afghanistan would be determined by the government of Afghanistan. However, he said that the US State Department was heavily engaged with both of those nations as "we look to find common ground in the future."
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.
Brigadier Bunch said that with the air interdiction campaign, the US troops were now able to go after the Taliban's support structure, whereas before they could only strike essentially in defence of the Afghan forces that were in contact with the enemy.
"So now we're able to go after their weapons cache sites, their revenue generation, their C2 nodes. All the areas where they thought they were safe and they are no longer so."