According to data released Friday, US bombings against the Taliban increased dramatically in August, reaching levels not seen in over a year.
The bombings came as Taliban insurgents ringed multiple capital cities and seized control of Kabul on Aug. 15. The statistics indicated US aircraft and drones fired 153 explosives or missiles in August, up from 18 in July.
The Air Force has not issued such a report in over two years. The statistics do not include the Afghan army’s airstrikes, which were common until the national government disbanded them.
Nonetheless, the figures provide a new perspective on how the US military fought in the last days of its most prolonged conflict, when Afghan forces under Taliban attack grew more desperate.
Openness of Records
For several years, the US Air Force issued regular “airpower recaps” to U.S. taxpayers, congressional oversight panels, and allies.
Yesterday the US government finally published nearly two years of classified Afghanistan airstrike data.
It total it declared nearly 800 previously classified strikes in the chaotic final years of the warhttps://t.co/UdZrxHlAOK
— Airwars (@airwars) December 18, 2021
Publishing was halted when the Trump administration agreed to remove US forces by this year in exchange for a few concessions, along with an end to terrorist attacks on US troops.
Officials claimed US soldiers in Afghanistan could defend themselves, but they persisted in backing their Afghan friends with limited airstrikes.
According to Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered the data to be shared again to promote openness. Monthly reports from February 2020 are suppressed, he adds.
Kirby claimed there had been no US bombings in Afghanistan since August 30. He added that Air Forces Central Command, which handles operations in the region, would continue to provide airpower reports.
Hundreds of people every month were murdered in 2021, mainly by roadside bombs or combat between Afghan forces and the Taliban, per the UN mission estimates.
Nonetheless, the US military did kill several civilians, including a volunteer and nine other noncombatants, in a strike on August 28 in Kabul.
The US airstrike in Kabul that killed 10 civilians – 7 children – was "a breakdown in process and execution in procedural events, not the result of negligence, not the result of misconduct, not the result of of poor leadership" DoD spox John Kirby says. Same story, different day.
— Paul McLeary (@paulmcleary) December 13, 2021
New Record of Airstrikes
At the peak of its aerial bombardment against the Taliban, the American military executed thousands of attacks yearly, hitting a height of 7,423 in 2019. This happened as officials sought to compel the Taliban to consider an end to the conflict.
The airstrikes continued early in 2020, with 415 munitions fired in January and 360 in February of last year. However, it decreased after the pullout pact was finalized, with 116 missiles deployed in March, 27 in April, 15 in May, and 18 in June, the newly revealed figures indicate.
The numbers grew again from there, as the Taliban mainly kept faithful to not targeting U.S. forces, but continued a brutal campaign against Afghan soldiers and police.
The American military fired 246 weapons in October 2020, and then even more than 100 every month during the first trimester of 2021, the statistics reveal.
The numbers tapered off again starting in May, before the latest increase came when the Taliban gained control of the nation.