The Air Force is adjusting its procedures in the air war in Afghanistan to reinforce its methods to avoid civilian casualties in close air support operations. FoxNews.com reported yesterday that the service is tightening its rules in part to help smooth US-Afghan tensions over a much-publicized AC-130 gunship attack against insurgents in August in Azizabad that killed many civilians as well as the enemy. While a newly issued US military investigation found that US and coalition forces performed a legitimate strike against the adversary and did not violate any rules of engagement or laws of war, the strike did cost the lives of at least 33 civilians due in large part to the insurgents’ tactic of purposely operating in proximity to them. The new procedures are “almost the same as we were doing before, but with a few exceptions,” said Brig. Gen. Mike Holmes, commander of the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing at Bagram Air Base, according to Fox. US defense officials have maintained that US and coalition forces go to the greatest of lengths to avoid harming noncombatants. In many cases, for example, strike aircraft will not drop munitions, but rather simply fly over the enemy at high speeds and low altitudes to scatter and dissuade them.
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.