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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.

Expand chart
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."

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Ford's big plans to turbocharge the electric car industry in the U.S.

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Ford Motor Company’s new $11 billion manufacturing plan, the biggest component of which will sit just outside Memphis, is part of a much bigger effort to put the U.S. at the center of the electric vehicle revolution, executive chairman Bill Ford says.

The big picture: Ford’s plans — for enormous facilities in both Tennessee and Kentucky, employing a combined 11,000 workers — are ambitious manufacturing efforts designed to minimize their environmental impact.

Court backlogs force prosecutors to dismiss some cases

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

The pandemic slowed the criminal justice system to a crawl in much of the U.S., and now an increase in violent crime is straining the system even further.

Why it matters: COVID-19 has caused backlogs in criminal cases across the U.S. to swell, forcing district attorneys to focus on the most violent offenses — and decline, delay or deal down a slew of other cases.

Axios-Ipsos poll: Biden trust takes a blow as COVID lingers

Data: Axios/Ipsos polls; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

For the first time in his presidency, Joe Biden faces a trust deficit among Americans when it comes to COVID-19, according to the latest installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

Why it matters: The latest findings point to malaise more than fear. But malaise could spell real trouble for a Democratic president who built his support on a pledge to steer the nation out of crisis — and whose party's bare House and Senate majorities are on the line in 2022.