Busy Month for US Aircraft in Afghanistan

July marked the first full month that US aircraft had the authority to target the Taliban in Afghanistan, and that authority resulted in the busiest month of the past year. US aircraft in July dropped 130 bombs in Afghanistan in July, bringing the total for the year to 675 bombs dropped in 3,029 total close air support sorties, according to US Air Forces Central Command statistics. These airstrikes are not “unilateral,” instead they are specifically tied to what the Afghan forces are doing on the ground, said US Army Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland, the deputy chief of staff for communications for the Resolute Support Mission. In early July, most of the airstrikes focused on the Kunduz region, and after that calmed down there was increased fighting in Helmand Province, Cleveland said. About 80 of the strikes were tied to the authority to target the Taliban, he said. At the same time, the Afghan Air Force has increased its capability. The AAF on Thursday received five more MD-530 attack helicopters, in addition to the 23 that are already operational. These helicopters have seen action in Helmand in particular, Cleveland said. The AAF also has eight A-29 Super Tucanos that it is using for close air support across the country, he said. (See also: Afghan Air Support Picks Up and The Afghan Air Force’s Manning Shortfall.) (Watch video of USAF F-16s taking off and landing at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.)