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U.S. strikes in Afghanistan up 78% from last year

The U.S. military reported on Friday a 78% total increase in weapons used in Afghanistan from the first half of 2017 to the same period this year.

Data: AFCENT Airpower Summary, June 30, 2018, page 3; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

The big picture: Michael Kugelman, deputy director for South Asia at the Wilson Center, told Axios that the uptick in weapons being used "makes perfect sense. ... Washington is likely trying to give the Taliban a better incentive to stop fighting — and that entails making the Taliban feel more vulnerable on the battlefield. Hence the upsurge in weaponry."

Our thought bubble: ISIS is losing territory in Iraq and Syria — something the president frequently touts — but the 17-year war in Afghanistan doesn't seem to be slowing down.

The details:

  • Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Koné Faulkner told Axios that a "weapons release may be a bomb, rocket, round, etc."
  • Each month this year has been higher than the corresponding months in every year since 2013, when the data was first made available.
  • In June 2018, the number of weapons released was 572, compared to 389 last year.

What they're saying:

  • Faulkner credited this year's "mild winter" for enabling "positive momentum heading into the 2018 fighting season."
  • He said the number of weapons released "has risen because of expanded authorities to conduct airstrikes against hostile forces."
  • He told Axios: "The most significant concentration of fighters is in the southern districts of Nangarhar and Kunar province, where our military is going after them aggressively.  Wherever ISIS-K [ISIS-Khorasan] materializes, they will be eliminated."

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