North Korea and Syria may be the countries currently making headlines, but a surprising piece of information shows that the U.S. military hasn’t forgotten about Afghanistan.
A report from VOA News reveals that despite the war in Afghanistan now being 17 years old, strikes against targets have actually been increasing — and by a staggering amount.
“The U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan dropped more bombs during the first quarter of 2018 than it has in the same period in any of the last 15 years, according to Pentagon data,” VOA reported.
“Coalition planes dropped 1,186 weapons on Afghanistan during the first three months of 2018, according to figures released by U.S. Air Forces Central Command. The previous record (1,083) was set during the height of the war in 2011,” the report continued.
A graph accompanying the data makes those numbers appear rather dramatic when visualized. There was a clear decline in the number of targets bombed between President Barack Obama’s first and second terms, followed by a noticeable spike beginning in 2017.
“The U.S.-led coalition in #Afghanistan dropped more bombs during the first quarter of 2018 than it has in the same period in any of the last 15 years” https://t.co/Jmsm0tzrFQ pic.twitter.com/0xDEc2N2Ba
— Ankit Panda (@nktpnd) April 24, 2018
That increase is the direct result of a directive put in place by President Donald Trump.
“Since President Donald Trump announced his new military strategy in August last year, the U.S.-led coalition bombing campaign has become much more intense, and this trend is expected to continue,” reported The Daily Caller.
“The primary targets include the Islamic State and the Taliban, specifically terrorist training camps and narcotics facilities.”
It’s clear that Trump and his staff are stepping up their air power game in the troubled region, most likely trying to turn the extended war in Afghanistan into something of a success before the two-decade mark.
What isn’t clear, however, is whether the increased bombings will actually make a long-term difference.
“It’s basically a tactic of desperation,” admitted Thomas Johnson, a national security and Afghanistan expert who teaches at the Naval Postgraduate School. “There’s never been an insurgency in history that’s been defeated purely through air power.”
That’s hardly an optimistic statement, but Johnson may be right. According to VOA News, the Pentagon recently estimated that only 56 percent — roughly half — of Afghanistan is under control of the local government, while the remaining portion is controlled by insurgents and warring factions.
The situation has become so frustrating that Afghanistan’s government has resorted to extending an olive branch to the Taliban, the military-political group infamous for once aiding Osama Bin Laden.
“I don’t care if you double the amount of air sorties you’re flying right now,” said Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. “We will never win this war militarily. The only solution to this war is political.”
He may have a point. Last-ditch bombing campaigns aside, history has shown that the region is shockingly resistant to being tamed by superpowers like the Soviet Union and the United States.
Trump inherited an Afghanistan mess from his predecessors and seems to be doing his best to salvage a chaotic situation. There may be no magic solution to the country’s deep troubles, but there’s no reason the military can’t keep taking the fight to terrorists while the strategists scratch their heads about what to do next.
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