The US military ramped up the number of air and artillery strikes it conducted in Afghanistan during the month of September following the collapse of the peace talks with the Taliban after President Donald Trump canceled a Camp David summit with the insurgent group on September 7.
US troops carried out 1,113 air and artillery strikes during the month of September, according to statistics released by the US military compared to 810 such strikes in August and just 465 strikes in September of 2018.
“We had peace talks scheduled a few days ago. I called them off when I learned that they had killed a great American soldier from Puerto Rico and 11 other innocent people. They thought they would use this attack to show strength. But actually, what they showed is unrelenting weakness. The last four days, we have hit our enemy harder than they have ever been hit before, and that will continue,” Trump vowed at a Pentagon ceremony marking the anniversary of the September 11th attacks.
In that four-day period referenced by Trump the US conducted some 153 strikes between September 8 and September 11, according to the data.
“U.S. forces do not purport that strikes are decisive; however, we may occasionally talk about this information to provide context.” US Forces Afghanistan said in a statement accompanying the statistics.
The statement said that the purpose of the strikes are “to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven to the Islamic State Khorasan Province, al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations” and “to apply judicious military pressure to enable the Taliban’s eventual reconciliation, reintegration and realignment.”
The September strikes included US military aircraft dropping some 948 bombs, missiles and other munitions on Taliban, ISIS-K and al Qaeda targets, according to statistics published earlier by US Air Forces Central Command.
The majority of the strikes took place in just five of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces: Nangarhar, Helmand, Uruzgan, Kandahar and Ghazni.
While Nangarhar is seen as an ISIS-K stronghold, the other four provinces are seen as areas with Taliban activity.
The US military was able to ramp up the number or air and artillery strikes in Afghanistan despite quietly reducing the number of troops there from about 15,000 to 13,000 over the last year, a reduction that took place in the absence of a peace deal.
Trump has floated reducing the number of US troops in the country to 8,600
From January 1 to the end of September 2019 the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) “documented 8,239 civilian casualties (2,563 deaths and 5,676 injured)” caused by fighting between pro and anti-government groups in Afghanistan, according to a UN report.
The report said that “anti-Government Elements” which include the Taliban and ISIS-K “continued to cause the majority of civilian casualties in Afghanistan.”
Afghan and US airstrikes accounted for 11% of civilian casualties during that period, according to the report.