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Military Capabilities

AFCENT notes continued high airstrike rate in Afghanistan

13 February 2020
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A US Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle dispenses flares during the supposed-height of the Afghan conflict in 2010. Since that time, the number of airstrikes conducted by US aircraft has markedly increased, with 2019 posting record figures. The first month of 2020 continues this trend. Source: US Air Force

The US military continued to drop munitions on Afghanistan in January 2020 at the near record-breaking levels achieved for 2019, figures released by Air Force Central Command (AFCENT) show.

According to the Combined Forces Air Component Commander (CFACC) 2013-19 Airpower Statistics released on 13 February, 415 missions flown in Afghanistan in January resulted in weapons being released. This is comparable to the 463 releases logged for the same month in the record-breaking year of 2019, and means that the 878 strikes logged for January 2019 and 2020 are significantly more than the combined 691 strikes recorded for same month over the previous four years.

As reported by Jane's in January, 2019 saw the US military drop more munitions on Afghanistan than in any other year over the past decade, with 7,423 missions flown resulting in weapons being released (the AFCENT numbers do not note the numbers or types of weapons released during each mission).

As noted by AFCENT, the statistics comprise all manned and unmanned US and coalition aircraft flying in the Afghanistan area of operations under CFACC control. This does not include Afghan Air Force (AAF) assets and, as only the US is currently engaged in kinetic air operations in Afghanistan, these figures are limited to the US Air Force (USAF), US Navy (USN) and US Marine Corps (USMC).

US and coalition combat operations in Afghanistan officially ended in December 2014, and the numbers of CFACC-controlled airstrikes dropped from 2,365 for that year to just 947 in 2015 (the lowest figure recorded since 2009). The strike rate began to rapidly rise again in 2016 with 1,337 recorded, and rose again in 2017 with 4,361. It rose markedly again in 2018 with 7,362, before peaking at 7,423 in 2019.

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