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The US Is On Pace To Bomb Afghanistan More Than Ever This Year — With No End In Sight
The 591 weapons released over Afghanistan in May were the most in a month so far this year, according to new statistics released by the Air Force.
Those 591 topped the previous high this year, which was 562 in April -- a count that includes bombs, missiles, and ground attacks. The record for a month is the 653 weapons released in October 2017 — that month, August 2017, and April and May this year are the only months to exceed 500 weapons released.
Overall, the U.S, aircraft conducted 726 sorties as part of Operation Freedom's Sentinel in May, 73 of which included the release of at least one weapon.
The total weapons deployed by manned and remotely piloted aircraft through May this year is 2,339, more than were dropped in both 2016 and 2015 and close to the 12-month totals for 2013 and 2014 — 2,758 and 2,365, respectively.
The 2,339 weapons used through May puts the U.S. on pace to release 5,613 weapons this year, which would well exceed the 4,361 used in 2017.
President Donald Trump said last year that the United States would increase its troop presence in Afghanistan to combat the resurgent Taliban as well as the growing presence of a local offshoot of ISIS called Islamic State-Khorasan, or ISIS-K.
Since then, a squadron of A-10 Thunderbolt ground-attack aircraft have been stationed in Afghanistan, as have MQ-9 Reapers used for intelligence-gathering and reconnaissance. F-16 Falcon fighter jets and EC-130H Compass Call electronic-warfare aircraft, among others, are also in the country.
Trump also delegated more authority to the Pentagon and commanders on the ground.
"We have given them total authorization, and that's what they're doing," Trump said in April 2017, after the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) weapon was dropped on an ISIS-K target in northwest Afghanistan — the first battlefield use of that weapon.
In recent months, the US has stepped up its targeting of the Taliban's drug labs and other revenue-generating infrastructure, using advanced aircraft like the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter to bomb rudimentary buildings around Afghanistan.
The Taliban has deepened its involvement in the drug trade, and many of its labs are easily rebuilt.
"U.S. air operations in May put tremendous pressure on every branch of the Taliban's network," Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, combined force air component commander, said in a release. "We struck Taliban leadership with precision strikes, and consistently pummeled their revenue-producing facilities, weapons caches, and staging facilities."
The May airstrike data was released as Army Lt. Gen. Austin Scott Miller went before lawmakers as the nominee to be the commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan. He would be the ninth U.S. general to take command since the invasion in late 2001 and the first appointed by Trump.
Miller acknowledged that the 17 years the U.S. has spent in Afghanistan "is a very long time" but said he "cannot guarantee you a timeline or an end date" for the deployment of the 16,000 US troops now in the country.
ISIS-K fighting positions targeted by airstrikes in Momand Valley, Achin District, Nangahar Province, Afghanistan, October 19, 2017.
The Pentagon believes that the Taliban controls or is contesting control of about one-third of Afghanistan, while the Afghan government controls the rest.
"I've learned a lot in the last 17 years," Miller, who currently oversees Joint Special Operations Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee. "I've learned there are groups that want nothing more than to harm Americans."
"I've learned these groups thrive in ungoverned spaces," he added. "I've also learned that when we maintain pressure on them abroad, they struggle to organize and build the necessary means to attack us."
When pressed by senators, Miller admitted the Pentagon needed to be considering pulling out of Afghanistan in the coming years but stressed that a "precipitous and disorderly withdrawal" would lead to "negative effects on U.S. national security."
Miller, who deployed to Afghanistan as a lieutenant colonel in 2001, underscored the generational nature of the war by gesturing to his son, a second lieutenant in the Army, during the hearing.
"This young guy sitting behind me," Miller said. "I never anticipated that his cohort would be in a position to deploy [to Afghanistan] as I sat there in 2001 and looked at this."
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KABUL/WASHINGTON/PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - The United States and the Taliban will sign an agreement on Feb. 29 at the end of a week long period of violence reduction in Afghanistan, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Taliban said on Friday.
Large cargo ships, small fishing boats and other watercraft sail safely past Naval Station Norfolk every day, but there's always a possibility that terrorists could use any one of them to attack the world's largest naval base.
While Navy security keeps a close eye on every vessel that passes, there's an inherent risk for the sailors aboard small patrol boats who are tasked with helping keep aircraft carriers, submarines and destroyers on base safe from waterborne attacks.
So the Navy experimented Wednesday to test whether an unmanned vessel could stop a small boat threatening the base from the Elizabeth River.
In the wee hours of Jan. 8, Tehran retaliated over the U.S. killing of Iran's most powerful general by bombarding the al-Asad air base in Iraq.
Among the 2,000 troops stationed there was U.S. Army Specialist Kimo Keltz, who recalls hearing a missile whistling through the sky as he lay on the deck of a guard tower. The explosion lifted his body - in full armor - an inch or two off the floor.
Keltz says he thought he had escaped with little more than a mild headache. Initial assessments around the base found no serious injuries or deaths from the attack. U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted, "All is well!"
The next day was different.
"My head kinda felt like I got hit with a truck," Keltz told Reuters in an interview from al-Asad air base in Iraq's western Anbar desert. "My stomach was grinding."
A video has emerged showing a U.S. military vehicle running a Russian armored truck off the road in Syria after it tried to pass an American convoy.
Questions still remain about the incident, to include when it occurred, though it appears to have taken place on a stretch of road near the Turkish border town of Qamishli, according to The War Zone.
Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.
We are women veterans who have served in the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. Our service – as aviators, ship drivers, intelligence analysts, engineers, professors, and diplomats — spans decades. We have served in times of peace and war, separated from our families and loved ones. We are proud of our accomplishments, particularly as many were earned while immersed in a military culture that often ignores and demeans women's contributions. We are veterans.
Yet we recognize that as we grew as leaders over time, we often failed to challenge or even question this culture. It took decades for us to recognize that our individual successes came despite this culture and the damage it caused us and the women who follow in our footsteps. The easier course has always been to tolerate insulting, discriminatory, and harmful behavior toward women veterans and service members and to cling to the idea that 'a few bad apples' do not reflect the attitudes of the whole.
Recent allegations that Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie allegedly sought to intentionally discredit a female veteran who reported a sexual assault at a VA medical center allow no such pretense.