The Afghan Air War Is Down 82 Percent
U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan last month were down 82 percent when compared to the same time period in 2010. It’s a stark reminder of the way the war there has shifted since the U.S. began its rapid drawdown in forces. According to new statistics released by the U.S. Air Force, the service released weapons over ...
U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan last month were down 82 percent when compared to the same time period in 2010. It's a stark reminder of the way the war there has shifted since the U.S. began its rapid drawdown in forces.
U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan last month were down 82 percent when compared to the same time period in 2010. It’s a stark reminder of the way the war there has shifted since the U.S. began its rapid drawdown in forces.
According to new statistics released by the U.S. Air Force, the service released weapons over Afghanistan 190 times in October 2013. That’s down from 414 in October 2012 — and 1,043 in 2010. October 2010 represented the month with the single largest amount of weapons released by the Air Force in Afghanistan in the last five years.
Overall, the Air Force conducted 1,283 air missions this year as of Oct. 31 in which weapons were used. That’s about 128 per month, a 42 percent decrease when compared to 2012, when 1,975 similar missions occurred. The U.S. conducted 2,678 airstrikes in 2011 at the height of the U.S. surge in forces, or about 223 per month.
The drop in airstrikes this year comes as Afghan National Security Forces took the lead in providing security in their own country, and took a beating this summer in the process. More than 100 Afghan soldiers or policemen were killed some weeks, as Taliban insurgents challenged them on the battlefield without the direct support of coalition forces.
The number of overall Air Force sorties, or flights, also has dropped significantly in 2013, according to service statistics. The Air Force has flown 18,757 sorties in 2013 as of Oct. 31, about 1,563 per month. That’s down from 34,514 in 2011 and 28,768 in 2012.
Significantly, the Air Force also has dramatically reduced the amount of air casualty evacuations it does. It conducted 503 casevac sorties in 2013 as Oct. 31, about 50 per month. At its peak, the Air Force conducted 3,712 evacuation sorties in 2010, about 309 per month. That’s an 84 percent reduction.
The Air Forces figures, combined with the large number of Afghan casualties, paint a bleak picture of how the Afghan military will fare on the ground without direct U.S. support. Air Force Brig. Gen. John Michel, who oversees NATO Air Training command Afghanistan, said in a recent interview that while NATO will scale back its effort to train a fully operational Afghan Air Force, it will focus most closely on skills like attacking enemy fighters from the air.
As part of that plan, NATO will stop training Afghans on Cessna 208 planes by December 2014, Michel told the Washington Times. The aircraft are used to evacuate wounded troops, resupply ground forces and recover fallen soldiers. But they are not using for striking ground targets. When the U.S. packs up and leaves Afghanistan, that’s a capability that will leave, as well.
Dan Lamothe is an award-winning military journalist and war correspondent. He has written for Marine Corps Times and the Military Times newspaper chain since 2008, traveling the world and writing extensively about the Afghanistan war both from Washington and the war zone. He also has reported from Norway, Spain, Germany, the Republic of Georgia and while underway with the U.S. Navy. Among his scoops, Lamothe reported exclusively in 2010 that the Marine Corps had recommended that Marine Cpl. Dakota Meyer receive the Medal of Honor. This year, he was part of a team of journalists that exposed senior Marine Corps leaders' questionable involvement in legal cases, and then covering it up. A Pentagon investigation is underway in those cases. Twitter: @DanLamothe
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