Afghanistan Airstrike Count Keeps Climbing as Violence Continues

A USAF A-10 Thunderbolt II breaks away after aerial refueling from a KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to the 340th Expeditionary Aerial Refueling Squadron out of Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, on Aug. 15, 2019. Air Force photo by SSgt. Keifer Bowes.

US aircraft in Afghanistan tallied the second highest number of airstrikes for a single month in at least the past 10 years, as the war there reaches its 18th anniversary.

Manned and unmanned American aircraft in September conducted 948 airstrikes, the highest total since the tally reached 1,043 in October 2010, according to numbers released Oct. 8 by Air Forces Central Command. AFCENT’s public totals date back to the beginning of 2009 and include US and coalition aircraft.

So far in 2019, US manned aircraft have released at least one weapon during 1,838 sorties in Afghanistan—nearly four times as many as in 2018, when those sorties totaled 500. Other missions have also grown. AFCENT said the military has flown 13,158 intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance flights so far this year, compared to 12,716 last year.

Overall, US operations in Afghanistan are running at a pace not seen in years. Seventeen US service members were killed in the country so far this year, up from 13 in 2018. President Donald Trump halted peace talks between the US and the Taliban after a Taliban attack killed a US soldier in early September.

Strikes in Iraq and Syria are continuing more slowly, according to AFCENT. US and coalition aircraft deployed weapons 137 times in September, down from 218 in August and totaling 4,251 so far this year. ISR has also steadily increased in those countries as the US and its partners keep eyes on Islamic State fighters. So far this year, the US-led international coalition conducted 10,004 ISR sorties, compared to 7,782 in all of 2018.