This article by Alia Shoaib was originally published by Business Insider.
The US has sent B-52 bombers and Spectre gunships to Afghanistan in a bid to stop Taliban insurgents who are marching towards three key cities.
The B-52s are flying into Afghanistan from an airbase in Qatar, hitting targets around Kandahar, Herat, and Lashkar Gah in Helmand province, sources told The Times.
The move comes amid an increasingly dire situation in Afghanistan, as the Taliban continues to seize territory across the country as US-led forces withdraw.
The Pentagon estimates that the group now controls half of Afghanistan’s 419 district centers.
On Friday, the Taliban seized Zaranj in Nimroz, making it the first provincial capital to be captured by the insurgents since they began their military campaign in May.
The Taliban also assassinated the government’s chief media officer, Dawa Khan Menapal, on the same day in Kabul.
The deployment of American bombers and gunships also highlights how ailing Afghan forces remain reliant on US support.
The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress is a long-range, subsonic, jet-powered strategic bomber, which can carry up to 32 tonnes of bombs.
The bombers first flew during the Cold War and played a key role in toppling the Taliban from power in late 2001, according to Arab News.
B-52s have not been used in Afghanistan for nearly a year, according to The Times.
The US is also using armed Reaper drones and AC-130 Spectre gunships, and at least five missions are being flown each day, The Times said.
The Afghan air force is still reliant on US-supplied aircraft, which are now running out of spares and trained technicians after the departure of US contractors, The Times reported.
The paper said that at least seven Afghan pilots had been killed after being targeted by the Taliban, while others are reportedly exhausted after relentless missions.
Although Joe Biden has set a deadline for withdrawal of August 31, American defense sources told The Times that there was every intention to continue with the airstrikes after that date.
“It is getting worse day by day here,” security analyst and retired colonel Mohammad Hassan told Arab News.
“The cancelation of flights to Herat and the fact that America has back started using B-52 are not good signs. It will cause more panic among people at large and shows the precariousness of the situation.”
The Afghan government estimates that over 40,000 families have been displaced by the fighting since early May.
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Feature image: U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Lance Cheung