Trump and War: U.S. Is Dropping Almost Three Times as Many Bombs on Afghanistan Compared to 2016

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A U.S. Army helicopter flies outside of Camp Shorab on a flight to Camp Post on September 11 in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Andrew Renneisen/Getty

The U.S. military is set to triple the amount of bombs it has dropped in Afghanistan this year under the Trump administration compared with last year, according to new figures.

So far this year the U.S. air force has dropped 3,554 bombs in Afghanistan against the Taliban as of October 31. This is almost three times the 1,337 it dropped in 2016 and almost four times the 2015 figure: 947.

The increase is consistent with the new strategy that Trump announced in August that would see the presence of U.S. soldiers expanded.

Strikes have also reached higher levels than previous years in other arenas that the military is operating. Since the beginning of 2017, the U.S. military has conducted 28 drone strikes against radical Islamists in Somalia.

More than half of those—15 strikes—have been conducted since the beginning of September. The U.S. Africa Command conducted a total of 15 strikes in the whole of 2016. The U.S. military under Trump has already killed more civilians in the campaign against the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) than under his predecessor Barack Obama.

In Afghanistan, like in Somalia, Trump has given his commanders greater authority to strike targets, such as drug labs used by the Taliban for its lucrative opium production.

General John Nicholson, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said Monday that the military conducted strikes on the production facilities Sunday in Helmand province by a F-22 attack plane and B-52 bombers.

“Last night we conducted strikes in northern Helmand to hit the Taliban where it hurts, in their narcotics financing,” Nicholson said Monday.

“They fight so that they can keep profiting from narcotics trade and other criminal activities.”

The Pentagon believes the Taliban makes more than $200 million annually from opium production, using poppies in the central Asian country.

American military personnel are continuing to aid Kabul in combating a decades-long insurgency since the U.S. invasion of the country in 2001.

Afghanistan has become Washington’s longest war and Trump has opposed a full withdrawal, and pledged to boost support for the government of President Ashraf Ghani to battle the Taliban and ISIS, whose affiliate has grown in influence in the country.

After a withdrawal of the majority of Western forces from Afghanistan in 2014, the Afghan security forces suffered a spike in casualties, with 75,000 members of security personnel killed in 2015 and 2016, Afghan ambassador to the U.S. Hamdullah Mohib told NBC News.

The Taliban is becoming more sophisticated in its attacks, launching assaults using Russian-made night-vision goggles, according to officials, and it now boasts a special forces unit known as Sara Khitta—which stands for “Red Group” in Pashto and consists of some 300 fighters.