US dramatically increases airstrikes in Afghanistan in 2016


WASHINGTON, Jan 9 (APP): The US Air Force increased the number of airstrikes in Afghanistan in 2016, a Wall Street Journal report said quoting the data released by the military, and said that it showed the growing involvement of US in the war after the decision to scale down the number of troops serving in the war-torn country.
After a decision to reduce the number, last year the Obama administration increased the military’s authority to carry out attacks in Afghanistan following gains made by Taliban and activities by the Islamic State’s affiliate in Afghanistan.
According to the military data, as quoted by the WSJ report, the number of weapons dropped in Afghanistan in 2016 increased to 1,337, showing a 40 percent rise. The number of airstrikes carried out last year was also 600 more than the last year, almost doubling from the preceding year to that.
The increased activity by the Taliban has been attributed to the departure of international coalition troops in 2014, which left a vacuum and allowed the Taliban to increase attacks on the Afghan government and also gain territory.
“The increase in the number of U.S. strikes is a direct result of having those additional authorities…. As we move into 2017, U.S. forces retain those authorities and will use them aggressively to target [Islamic State] and to help the Afghans achieve strategic effects,”, U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland was quoted as saying by the report.
The Obama administration decided to widen the authority of the American troops in Afghanistan as a result of deteriorating security conditions and as the Islamic State gained more visibility last year.
That has resulted in the dramatic increase in US military activity in the region with almost near daily airstrikes on IS targets and an increase in support to help Afghan forces retain control over provincial capitals in other parts of the country.
The ISIS emerged on the scene of Afghanistan, already torn by decades of military violence, two years ago taking benefit of a vacuum as foreign forces were drawing down.
This enabled the new group to strengthen its hold in several districts in eastern Nangarhar province. The group has spread its presence to at least one more province in the last year.
The report said that in spite of increased military activity by the American troops, Islamic State has been able to carry out some high-profile attacks in Kabul, adding to the concern about the increasing violence in the country where the US spent billions of dollars to achieve stability.
The increase in airstrike also happened as the Obama administration in June last year also expanded the authority to attack Taliban and support Afghan forces retain control of the lost territories.
In addition to that, the US Special Force have been sent to at least a half dozen provincial capital to support Afghan forces with airstrikes and other operations, the WSJ report added.