One of the takeaways from the background briefing on the Pentagon’s newly released Afghanistan progress report is that Afghan security forces will continue to be dependent on coalition advisors for some time for a wide range of enablers like overhead intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance and other air capabilities. As coalition forces reduce their combat roles, they are transitioning to security force assistance, which represents a shift in “both the size and the character” of what they’re doing, said a defense official at the Dec. 10 briefing. Recent activities in Afghanistan reflect a “huge difference” in that the number of operations conducted by coalition forces is down, while Afghan-led ops are up, said this official. This is reflected in reduced coalition combat casualties, said the official. But coalition advisers will remain important to independent Afghan operations, noted the official. Afghans carry out operations with some coalition support, meaning “sometimes” there’s “actual advisers with them,” delivering assistance like intelligence and rotary- or fixed-wing air support, said the official. “We’re devoting a lot of effort to building up those enablers,” said the official when asked about fostering greater independent air operations by Afghan forces. (Briefing transcript)
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.