According to figures released by the Air Forces Central Command, the U.S. dropped more bombs over Afghanistan in 2019 than any other year since 2010.
Combined, fighter, attack and unmanned aircraft dropped 7,423 bombs in 2019, which exceeds 2018’s 7,362. By contrast, 2010 saw 5,101 bombs released over the country at a time when the United States had nearly 100,000 soldiers on the ground.
The massive escalation in force from above is seen across numerous metrics: For example, last year saw 2,434 sorties by manned aircraft in which munitions were deployed, which is more than double the preceding year, where 966 such sorties were recorded.
The year 2019 has proven to be the most kinetic year for U.S. forces in Afghanistan in nearly a decade.
Despite President Trump’s rhetoric of ending “forever wars,” there has been a considerable increase in the deployment of specifically aerial weapons. This permits continued military involvement while minimizing the risk of U.S. casualties.
It appears that the Trump Administration’s decision to increase its bombing campaign is yielding few results. It was initially hoped for, by the Pentagon, that intensification of the conflict would force the Taliban to settle. This is similar to Nixon’s Christmas Bombing of Hanoi in 1972 (officially called “Operation Linebacker II”).
“We did step up our attacks on the Taliban since the talks broke down. You know, the president spoke about this publicly — we did pick up the pace considerably,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper explained in October.
Though the U.S. government has attempted to negotiate with the Taliban, often without the involvement of the Afghan government, it does not seem to have fundamentally weakened the fighters. While Trump said that the U.S. was hitting them “harder than they have ever been hit before,” the Taliban still control large swathes of the country.
Peace talks were abruptly suspended following the killing of an American soldier in Kabul back in September. They subsequently were resumed only to be suspended once more following an attempt by militants to breach Bagram Air Base. They are now once again ongoing though with no concrete steps having been accomplished yet. A key issue is whether there’ll be a ceasefire or merely a reduction in violence following an American withdrawal.
With little progress, despite continued escalation, the U.S. risks becoming increasingly entrenched in the country. The lack of a clear exit strategy means that the United States can find itself simply doing more of the same while using up more of its resources.