The United States dropped more bombs and other munitions in Afghanistan during the first ten months of 2018 than in any other full year since documentation began, new Air Force data shows.
Between the start of the year and the end of October, U.S. forces released 5,982 munitions in Afghanistan, said the latest monthly report by U.S. Air Forces Central Command. Coalition aircraft flew nearly 6,600 sorties, about 12 percent of which carried out strikes during that period.
AFCENT didn’t begin publishing munitions data regularly until 2006.
The latest figures surpass the previous annual record of about 5,400 recorded in 2011 at the height of the U.S. troop surge. AFCENT’s figures include both bomb and missile strikes, 105mm shells fired by AC-130 gunships and strafing fire from 20mm cannons and up.
A ramped-up bombing campaign has been part of the Trump administration’s strategy for pushing the Taliban to the negotiating table. But the Kabul government has been unable to win territory back from the insurgents and the bombing has corresponded with a record number of civilian casualties caused by airstrikes, according to United Nations statistics.
On Wednesday, just a day before the latest Air Force data was released, the military said it was investigating claims that about two dozen civilians were killed by a U.S. strike in southern Helmand province.
In addition to targeting the Taliban and other militant fighters, munitions this year have been used for “terrain denial” strikes — bombings intended to destroy positions and routes used by insurgents — and to target Taliban drug labs, military officials said.
It’s difficult to know to what extent the bombings have prevented insurgents from controlling more areas than would otherwise have been the case. Despite the uptick in airstrikes, the Taliban hold more territory than at any time since the war began in 2001, according to U.S. military data.