The U.S. is in talks with countries that border Afghanistan about housing “over the horizon” counterterrorism operations that would allow the U.S. military to more easily surveil and strike targets in Afghanistan, Politico writes with reference to senators who attended a classified hearing with Pentagon leaders this week.
The sites could include bases run by Russia in those countries, the report says.
After testifying publicly before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, a trio of the military’s top officials briefed lawmakers behind closed doors about the discussions, which are taking place with the governments of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and others.
The disclosure to lawmakers on Tuesday came just hours after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin acknowledged that the U.S. has asked Russia for “clarification” about an offer from President Vladimir Putin to host the U.S. counterterrorism operations on Russian military bases in Central Asia.
Lawmakers from both parties, in the meantime, are not confident about the ability of the U.S. military to rely exclusively on over-the-horizon capabilities to strike terrorist groups in Afghanistan. They also have concerns about the accuracy of the drone strikes and the likelihood of civilian casualties — as evidenced by the August 29 drone strike in Kabul that killed 10 innocent civilians, including seven children.