Continuing CAS in Afghanistan

Even though the President touted the end of combat operations in Afghanistan during his State of the Union speech Tuesday, the residual force taking part in Operation Freedom’s Sentinel continues to prosecute combat missions in certain circumstances, and according to Pentagon officials, USAF aircraft continue to provide close air support for Afghan troops. Air Forces Central Command has said airmen will remain in the country in several locations, including at the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing at Bagram Airfield. As part of the train, advise, and assist mission, the US may provide combat enabler support, which includes CAS, to Afghan security forces “in limited circumstances,” Pentagon spokesperson Navy Cdr. Elissa Smith told Air Force Magazine. Smith did not comment on specific incidents. The purpose of this airpower is to prevent “detrimental strategic effects” to Afghan forces, which continue to battle Taliban and associated forces for control of areas throughout the country. Currently, USAF has both remotely piloted aircraft assets and F-16s deployed for operations inside Afghanistan. All A-10 aircraft operating in Afghanistan redeployed to the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing at an undisclosed base in the Gulf region in November 2014 in support of anti-ISIS operations in Iraq and Syria.