In the backdrop of peace negotiations to end the 18-year long war U.S. aircraft are bombing the hell out of the Taliban and other militants as the warring parties slog through never-ending discussions to bring the fighting to a close.
According to U.S. Air Forces Central Command, U.S. aircraft dropped 7,423 munitions in 2019 — that’s the highest number of bombs released in nearly a decade.
In 2018, U.S. warplanes dropped 7,362 bombs — the second highest total in a year thus far since AFCENT began publishing the number of munitions released in Afghanistan.
In 2010 and 2011, the height of America’s participation in Afghan war, coalition aircraft dropped 5,100 and 5,411 bombs respectively. During those two years, the U.S. military had nearly 100,000 U.S. troops on the ground as part of President Barack Obama’s troop surge to clear Taliban militants.
The U.S. military detailed in a recent report to Congress that it kicked off plans in fall 2018 to “intensify pressure” on the Taliban and force them into a settled negotiation to end the war.
Those efforts included a joint operations center staffed by coalition and Afghan forces to help integrate intelligence, streamline operations and build an accurate assessment of the counter-terrorism picture on the ground, the report detailed.
“The additional capabilities provided by these new initiatives, coupled with USFOR-A’s [U.S. Forces Afghanistan] sustained military pressure, helped prevent the Taliban from successfully seizing any provincial centers in 2019,” the report reads.
As peace talks with the Taliban were temporarily suspended by President Donald Trump in Sept. 2019, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told reporters in October that the U.S. military had ramped up operations against the Taliban to push the militant group to the negotiating table.
“We did step up our attacks on the Taliban since the talks broke down. You know, the president spoke about this publicly — we did pick up the pace considerably,” Esper told reporters in early October.
At a Pentagon 9/11 ceremony Trump said that the U.S. was hitting the enemy in Afghanistan “harder than they have ever been hit before.”
Trump told U.S. troops at Bagram Air Base during a surprise Thanksgiving holiday visit that the U.S. was restarting negotiations with the Taliban.
Talks were temporarily suspended again in December following a brazen attack by Taliban militants attempting to breach Bagram Air Base. Airstrikes were called in following a nearly 10-hour gunfight between insurgents and U.S. forces.
Negotiations have since resumed but have appeared to stall over wranglings between a cease-fire or a reduction of violence. Trump’s envoy leading peace negotiations with the Taliban, Zalmay Khalilzad, has sought to pressure the Taliban into a cease-fire.
The Afghan government has also called for a cease-fire. The Taliban have thus far offered a reduction in violence.
The Associated Press reported Friday that the Taliban were frustrated over what they perceived as additional U.S. demands and calls for details of what a reduction of violence would entail.
There are roughly 13,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The White House and the Pentagon are considering lowering the U.S. footprint in the country to 8,600 with or without a deal with the Taliban.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.