The United States Air Force and Army air support have been busy this week. Ghazni has seen fierce fighting, as the Taliban have been pushing to take the city — to no avail. Fighters from the U.S. Air Force and Army Apache gunships have killed over 220 Taliban fighters in the area since Aug. 10, according to a statement from Lt. Col. Martin O’Donnell, Operation Resolute Support spokesman, to Military.com.
“Ghazni City remains under Afghan government control,” said Lt. Col. O’Donnell. Driving the Taliban from the city appeared to take some significant efforts on both the parts of U.S. forces and Afghan forces on the ground. U.S. Special Operations Forces also supported the efforts to expel the Taliban forces.
Air support is much easier to provide to Afghan forces when compared to troops on the ground. Air support can be provided from a place of safety; it can come from a base that is further back and still in line with the “drawdown” as a whole.
First of all — while there is significant risk to the pilots in the air, it obviously poses a much lower risk to American boots on the ground. Sure, you’ve got immense firepower, valuable technology, and the irreplaceable lives of the pilots inside, but if you’re looking at numbers, the risk is simply less for NATO as a whole.
Secondly — as NATO forces continue to draw down and diminish their numbers of people on the ground, air support allows them to be absolutely, undeniably effective without the international implications of actually having a whole lot of boots on the ground. This especially applies to conventional forces like infantry units, whose presence is much more controversial than a few helicopters in the air and maybe some SOF units on the ground — even if that combination is killing the Taliban by the hundreds (which it is).
And finally, U.S. firepower from the air is so easy to employ (relatively speaking), and is so insanely effective against the types of troops that the Taliban are sending — sending them is almost a no-brainer, especially in instances like this, where a city is effectively under siege.
You can bet that heavy air support of this nature is going to continue as the war goes on — up until the very last day where the very last U.S. Soldier, Sailor, Marine or Airman is out of the country.