Airstrikes in Afghanistan increase after new Trump strategy

Airstrikes in Afghanistan increase after new Trump strategy
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The number of U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan shot up in September, reaching their highest point in seven years, according to recently released data from United States Air Forces Central Command.

U.S. forces in September dropped 751 bombs against the Taliban and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria’s (ISIS) Afghan branch, a 50 percent increase from the 503 dropped in August and the most since late 2010 during the Battle of Sangin. 

A summary accompanying the data attributed the increase to President Trump’s new strategy in Afghanistan, as well as the delivery of more aircraft to the country.

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“This increase can be attributed to the president’s strategy to more proactively target extremist groups that threaten the stability and security of the Afghan people,” the command said. “Additionally, the recent addition of six F-16s at Bagram Air Base, coupled with more B-52 missions dedicated to Afghanistan, offer the additional strike capacity needed to target these groups.”

The data in the report covers aircraft under the auspices of Combined Forces Air Component Commander, which does not include all aircraft in the region, meaning the actual numbers could be higher.

In August, Trump unveiled a new strategy for Afghanistan in which he hinted at new rules of engagement that would allow airstrikes to increase.

In congressional testimony last week, Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisAfter Texas shooting, lawmakers question whether military has systemic reporting problem In Africa, defense without diplomacy and development is a losing strategy McCain pledges 'rigorous oversight' after Air Force failure to report Texas gunman's conviction MORE elaborated, saying that one of the changes includes allowing strikes against the Taliban when American forces are not near the group.

“We are no longer bound by the need for proximity to our forces,” Mattis told the House Armed Services Committee. “In other words, wherever we find the enemy, we can put the pressure from the air support on them. It used to be we had to basically be in contact with that enemy.”

Air Forces Central Command’s most recent data shows that U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan have dropped 3,238 bombs in 2017 so far.

The data also marks a “key milestone” in the U.S.-led coalition’s fight against ISIS in the group's territory in Iraq and Syria — surpassing 100,000 bombs since the start of the campaign in 2014.

In September, the coalition dropped 3,550 bombs, down from August’s record high of 5,075.

So far in 2017, 36,351 bombs have been dropped, bringing the total since the start of the campaign to 102,082.