WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has blasted Afghanistan with more bombs and other firepower during the first 10 months of 2018 than in any other full year since such documentation began, according to numbers released Tuesday.
According to U.S. Air Forces Central Command, the U.S. military unleashed 5,982 munitions in Afghanistan from January through October — besting the previous one-year record of 5,411 in 2011.
The Air Force started logging bombing data in 2006. The numbers include bomb and missile attacks, 105mm shells fired by AC-130 gunships and fire from 20mm and other cannons, the Air Force said.
The jump in bombing came with another rise — a sharp increase in the number of civilians killed or injured by airstrikes in Afghanistan. In October, the U.N. said that number had leaped 39 percent in the first nine months of 2018, compared to the similar period in 2017.
In that period this year, 649 civilians were killed, compared to 631 in all of 2017. The report said 60 percent of 2018 casualties were women and children.
The U.N. report includes airstrikes by both U.S. and Afghan militaries.
Analysts were not surprised by the higher numbers, given the Pentagon’s shift from ground to air strength in Afghanistan and Iraq-Syria.
“They really pulled back U.S. ground troops from much of the fighting,” Loren Thompson, an analyst with The Lexington Institute, told TMN. He said, however, that air power is not enough to determine the outcome. “It’s hard for anyone using air power alone” to win a conflict.
The record in Afghanistan was hinted throughout the year, as the Air Force released bombing numbers each quarter. “Until the Taliban show they’re willing to reconcile with the Afghan government, they will remain square in our crosshairs,” Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, Combined Forces Air Component commander for U.S. Central Command, told reporters earlier this year.
The year has been full of bombing marks for Afghanistan.
For example, during a 96-hour bombing attack against the Taliban in February, the Air Force dropped more precision-guided bombs — 24 — then it ever had before, according to a news release then.
Part of the increase in Afghan bombing is the counter to the decrease in bombing in the Iraq-Syria theater, Pentagon officials said. The rise in Afghan bombing began after President Donald Trump took office in January 2017.
Afghanistan is also the theater in which the military deployed both the so-called “Daisy Cutter” bomb — which also was used in Vietnam and Iraq — as well as using for the first time the “MOAB” in April 2017.
The MOAB, officially called the GBU-43B, is the most powerful nonnuclear bomb in the Pentagon closet. The Massive Ordnance Air Blast, nicknamed the “mother of all bombs,” was dropped on a tunnel-and-cave complex in eastern Afghanistan. It is the most powerful bomb the U.S. military has used since the atomic bomb hit Nagasaki, Japan, at the end of World War II.
The new numbers were first reported by Stars and Stripes.