KABUL—The U.S. Air Force dramatically increased the number of airstrikes it carried out in Afghanistan in 2016, data released by the military shows, a further sign of growing U.S. involvement in the war following the withdrawal of most coalition troops two years ago.

The increased engagement follows the U.S.’s decision last year to widen the military’s authority to conduct offensive operations in Afghanistan amid gains made by the Taliban, its largest insurgency, and Islamic State’s affiliate in the country.

“The increase in the number of U.S. strikes is a direct result of having those additional authorities,” U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland said Sunday. “As we move into 2017, U.S. forces retain those authorities and will use them aggressively to target [Islamic State] and to help the Afghans achieve strategic effects.”

The number of weapons dropped in Afghanistan in 2016 rose by around 40% to 1,337, according to the undated report from U.S. Air Forces Central Command.

The U.S. Air Force also conducted more than 600 aerial sorties that resulted in at least one strike, almost 50% more than the previous year, although the number of overall sorties was slightly lower.


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