Mixed messages? US drops record number of bombs on Afghanistan amid peace efforts with Taliban

FILE PHOTO: A US airstrike in the Shewa district of Nanagarhar province, Afghanistan © Reuters / Free

The US military dropped an eye-popping 7,362 bombs on Afghanistan last year, Pentagon data shows, making 2018 the most airstrike-abundant year for the country in at least a decade – even as the US seeks peace with the Taliban.

Manned and unmanned US military aircraft pounded Afghanistan with a combined payload of 7,362 “weapons” in 2018, according to the latest figures released by the US Air Force’s Central Command. With an average of 20 “weapons” released each day, more bombs were dropped on Afghanistan in 2018 than in the previous three years combined, and publicly available data shows it was the most kinetic year since at least 2009.

For contrast, 947 bombs were dropped on the country in 2015.

The record-setting uptick in airstrikes “deterred aggression, maintained security, and defended our networks,” said Lt. Gen. Joseph Guastella, Combined Forces Air Component Commander, in a news release. He claimed that the trigger-happy year had led to “significant progress in Afghanistan.”

Incredibly, the spike in bomb dropping has coincided with Washington’s efforts to broker peace between Kabul and the Taliban.

Acting US Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan made a surprise visit to Afghanistan on Monday, where he urged the country’s leaders to enter into negotiations with their long-time nemesis.

The US military has been bogged down in Afghanistan since it invaded the infamous “graveyard of empires” in October, 2001. After more than 17 years, the Pentagon has signalled that continuing the conflict is futile.

Gen. Austin Scott Miller, commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, conceded in November that the war “is not going to be won militarily,” adding that “this is going to be a political solution.”

US President Donald Trump – who boosted troop levels in the country and vowed to deliver the decisive blow against the Taliban – has hinted that the 14,000 US service members stationed in Afghanistan may be coming home soon.

Surprisingly, it seems that raining bombs on Afghanistan had little effect on the military realities on the ground. In recent months, the war has been tipping in the Taliban’s favor. Even by US military estimates, the Afghan government controls or influences just over half of the country’s 407 districts – a record low since the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, began tracking district control in November 2015.

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