WASHINGTON – As American ground forces in Afghanistan shrink, U.S. and allied warplanes are dropping bombs and firing missiles at insurgent targets at a record pace in the 18-year-long war.
The spike in firepower coincides with a Trump administration policy, dating to 2016, which gives military commanders greater authority to attack Taliban and Islamic State militants in Afghanistan.
“The logic is that the Taliban may be more likely to agree to a peace deal acceptable to the United States and the Afghan government if the Taliban believe they can’t win the war in Afghanistan,” said Seth Jones, a defense analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and former adviser to the special operations commander in Afghanistan.
“Consequently, airstrikes and ground operations are a way to raise the costs for the Taliban of continuing to fight,” he said.
But negotiations with insurgents have broken off.
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From Jan. 1 through October, U.S.-led forces have used6,208 missiles and bombs in Afghanistan. That compares with 5,982 for the same period in 2018, which saw the most airstrikes of any year since the Taliban was toppled in 2001.