The US Dropped More Bombs On Afghanistan In 2018 Than Any Year In Over A Decade

Bullet Points

U.S. military aircraft deployed more munitions against targets in Afghanistan during the first 10 months of this year than during any other full calendar year since the Air Force began documenting monthly bomb usage there in 2006, according to new data from the Air Forces Central Command.


  • Between January and October of 2018, U.S. forces dropped 5,982 bombs in Afghanistan, according to the data recorded by AFCENT's Combined Air Operations Center, a 37% increase from the 4,361 munitions deployed during all of 2017.
  • In addition, coalition aircraft flew nearly 6,600 sorties, a 43% increase from the 4,603 conducted during all of 2017, although it's worth noting that the number of sorties that actually involved weapons releases went from 27% in 2017 to 12% in 2018 — a change that suggests fewer aircraft are dropping more bombs than ever before.

  • The uptick in munition releases is somewhat unsurprising: Early in his campaign for the presidency, then-candidate Trump laid out a simple vision for ridding the Middle East of the terrorists: “bomb the shit out of ‘em.
  • But the new bombing data comes amid reports that President Donald Trump is pushing to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the 2020 presidential election, extricating his administration from a conflict that the commander-in-chief believes "we aren't winning," as NBC News reported in August 2017.
  • According to Stars and Stripes, the munitions deployed by U.S. aircraft were primarily focused on terrain denial, as well as depriving the Taliban of the drug labs that help fund the militants' years-long insurgency against the NATO-led mission there.

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Editor's Note: This article by Oriana Pawlyk originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

On April 14, 2018, two B-1B Lancer bombers fired off payloads of Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles against weapons storage plants in western Syria, part of a shock-and-awe response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's use of chemical weapons against his citizens that also included strikes from Navy destroyers and submarines.

In all, the two bombers fired 19 JASSMs, successfully eliminating their targets. But the moment would ultimately be one of the last — and certainly most publicized — strategic strikes for the aircraft before operations began to wind down for the entire fleet.

A few months after the Syria strike, Air Force Global Strike Command commander Gen. Tim Ray called the bombers back home. Ray had crunched the data, and determined the non-nuclear B-1 was pushing its capabilities limit. Between 2006 and 2016, the B-1 was the sole bomber tasked continuously in the Middle East. The assignment was spread over three Lancer squadrons that spent one year at home, then six month deployed — back and forth for a decade.

The constant deployments broke the B-1 fleet. It's no longer a question of if, but when the Air Force and Congress will send the aircraft to the Boneyard. But Air Force officials are still arguing the B-1 has value to offer, especially since it's all the service really has until newer bombers hit the flight line in the mid-2020s.

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