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The US conducted more airstrikes in Afghanistan in 2018 than any other time in the last decade
The U.S. military conducted more airstrikes in Afghanistan last year than in the three previous years combined, making 2018 the most kinetic year for airstrikes in the country in at least a decade.
The second-highest year on record was in 2011, when U.S. assets dropped 5,411 weapons, according to available figures dating back to 2009.
"Throughout the last year, the air component has supported multiple ongoing campaigns, deterred aggression, maintained security, and defended our networks," said Lt. Gen. Joseph Guastella, Combined Forces Air Component Commander, in a news release.
"We've orchestrated coalition airpower to destroy the [Islamic State] caliphate, support Iraq, and enabled significant progress in Afghanistan," Guastella said.
The months of September and November saw the most strikes against terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State Khorasan, or ISIS-K, in Afghanistan, with 841 weapons released each of those months.
Aircraft operating under the Combined Forces Air Component Command flew 8,196 sorties in 2018, nearly double the amount of sorties than in 2017, the data shows.
President Donald Trump in 2017 announced the U.S. would begin sending more troops to Afghanistan -- where the U.S. has been fighting its longest war in history -- to step up the fight against ISIS-K, the Taliban and the Afghan offshoot of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
The Trump administration boosted force strength in the region by 3,500 troops in 2017 and 2018 in an effort to to boost the advise-and-assist mission with the Afghan military, according to the Associated Press.
While the Trump plan for Afghanistan at the time had not been fully articulated, the president made clear his preference to give more leeway to generals, allowing them to take an aggressive approach toward stamping out extremist threats.
Nicholson approved the highly publicized drop of the 21,600-pound GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) -- nicknamed "mother of all bombs" -- against IS-K in the Achin district of eastern Nangarhar province in April 2017.
It was the first time the MOAB, the highest-yielding non-nuclear bomb in the U.S. arsenal, had been used in combat.
Even as airstrikes hit a decade-long high, the Trump administration has in recent months signaled a renewed interest in negotiations with the Taliban.
Following Defense Secretary Jim Mattis's departure in December, the president has turned to additional peace negotiations with the Taliban to potentially end the 17-year-long war.
"In Afghanistan, my administration is holding constructive talks with a number of Afghan groups, including the Taliban," Trump said last week during his annual State of the Union address. "As we make progress in these negotiations, we will be able to reduce our troop presence and focus on counter-terrorism. We do not know whether we will achieve an agreement -- but we do know that after two decades of war, the hour has come to at least try for peace."
On Monday, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan made an unannounced visit to the country to meet with U.S. commanders and Afghan leaders.
Shanahan separately met with President Ashraf Ghani to "discuss a broad range of defense issues," the Defense Department said in a statement.
"While there he is also meeting with coalition troops in support of Afghan forces as they lead the fight to defend their country," officials said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com
More articles from Military.com:
- Airstrikes in Afghanistan See Big Spike Following Spring Surge
- General: US Moving More Airpower to Afghanistan in Strategy Shift
- Air Force's Monthly Bombing Campaign in Afghanistan Hits 5-Year High
SEE ALSO: Peace With The Taliban In Afghanistan Appears Closer Than Ever. What Could That Actually Look Like?
WATCH NEXT: The Aftermath Of The 'Mother Of All Bombs' In Afghanistan
The Marine Corps has tapped a new Silicon Valley defense firm to develop a "digital fortress" of networked surveillance systems in order to enhance the situational awareness of security forces at installations around the world.
Marine Corps Installations Command on July 15 announced a $13.5 million sole source contract award to Anduril Industries — the two-year-old defense technology company and Project Maven contractor founded by Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey and several former Palantir Technologies executives — for a new Autonomous Surveillance Counter Intrusion Capability (ASCIC) designed to help secure installations against "all manners of intrusion" without additional manpower.
This is no standard intrusion system. Through its AI-driven Lattice Platform network and 32-foot-tall autonomous Sentry Towers, Anduril purports to combine the virtual reality systems that Luckey pioneered at Oculus with Pentagon's most advanced sensors into a simple mobile platform, enhancing an installation's surveillance capabilities with what Wired recently dubbed "a web of all-seeing eyes, with intelligence to know what it sees."
The Marine Corps' dune buggy drone jammer may have downed two Iranian drones in the Strait of Hormuz, U.S. military have officials announced.
The amphibious assault ship USS Boxer was transiting the Strait of Hormuz on July 18 when two Iranian drones came dangerously close, according to U.S. Central Command.
"This was a defensive action by the USS Boxer in response to aggressive interactions by two Iranian UAS [unmanned aerial systems] platforms in international waters," CENTCOM spokesman Army Lt. Col. Earl Brown said in a statement. "The Boxer took defensive action and engaged both of these platforms."
Green Beret with terminal cancer meets Trump to rally support for military medical malpractice reform
On July 17, Army Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stayskal briefly met with President Donald Trump at a rally in Greenville, North Carolina to discuss the eponymous legislation that would finally allow victims of military medical malpractice to sue the U.S. government.
A Green Beret with terminal lung cancer, Stayskal has spent the last year fighting to change the Feres Doctrine, a 1950 Supreme Court precedent that bars service members like him from suing the government for negligence or wrongdoing.
The Pentagon is no longer topless. On Tuesday, the Senate voted to confirm Mark Esper as the United States' first permanent defense secretary in more than seven months.
Esper is expected to be sworn in as defense secretary later on Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told reporters.
"We are grateful for the Senate leadership and the Senate Armed Services Committee's willingness to quickly move through this process," Hoffman said.
The new trailer for Top Gun: Maverick that dropped last week was indisputably the white-knuckle thrill ride of the summer, a blur of aerial acrobatics and beach volleyball that made us wonder how we ever lost that lovin' feeling in the decades since we first met Pete "Maverick" Mitchell back in 1986.
But it also made us wonder something else: Why is Maverick still flying combat missions in an F/A-18 Super Hornet as a 57-year-old captain after more than 30 years of service?