Military Capabilities

USAF resumes C-17 airdrops into Afghanistan as security deteriorates

16 May 2018
A US Air Force loadmaster prepares a C-17’s cargo for airdrop into southern Afghanistan. The security situation in the country has necessitated the resumption of strategic airdrops after a break of 18 months. Source: US Air Force

The United States has resumed strategic airdrops into southern Afghanistan, reflecting the deteriorating security conditions in the country.

A US Air Force (USAF) Boeing C-17 Globemaster III strategic airlifter assigned to the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron (EAS), 379th Air Expeditionary Wing (AEW), at Al Udeid Airbase in Qatar conducted the type’s first airdrop into Afghanistan in 18 months.

As noted by the 379th AEW on 15 May, the aircraft flew from its base at Al Udeid to Bagram Airbase near Kabul. At Bagram, it was loaded with an unspecified cargo that on 10 May was dropped at night into an undisclosed location in southern Afghanistan.

The resumption of strategic airdrops into Afghanistan a year-and-a-half since the last one comes three weeks after the Taliban announced the official launch of its annual spring offensive. Since that announcement on 26 April, Afghan government forces have, with US support, been involved in heavy fighting throughout the country, most notably around the western city of Farah. This heightened military activity comes at a time when the USAF is releasing more weapons over Afghanistan than at any time since the official end of combat operations in December 2014.

Such has been the downturn in the security situation in Afghanistan that the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has reported that the Taliban now controls about 14.5% of the country’s districts – the highest recorded since the US-led invasion in 2001.

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