KABUL, Afghanistan (AFP) — American warplanes dropped more bombs on Afghanistan in 2019 than at any other time in at least a decade, according to the U.S. Air Force, as Washington intensified attacks in the country during withdrawal talks with the Taliban.
In 2019 alone, the United States dropped 7,423 bombs and missiles on targets in Afghanistan, where the United States has been at war with several militant groups since it invaded the country after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
The figure — published online by U.S. Air Forces Central Command — reveals a dramatic surge in bombings in Afghanistan compared to the peak of President Barack Obama’s “surge” in 2009, when 4,147 bombs were dropped.
Since President Trump was elected in 2016 the United States has ramped up bombing runs over Afghanistan as the White House removed restrictions that provided greater oversight over air raids aimed at preventing civilian casualties.
The United Nations and rights groups have repeatedly voiced concerns that the increase in air strikes across the country by U.S. and Afghan forces have resulted in a major upswing in civilian casualties.
During the first half of 2019, pro-government forces, including the United States, killed 717 civilians, an increase of 31% from a year earlier, the UN reported last year.
Most of the deaths came from U.S. and Afghan airstrikes, often in support of national forces on the ground, the report said.
The increase in bombings comes as Washington and the Taliban continue to wrangle over a possible agreement that would see U.S. troops begin to leave Afghanistan in return for security guarantees.
The Taliban have been pushing to reach a withdrawal agreement with Washington by the end of January and are prepared to scale down military operations before signing a deal, their chief spokesman said this month.
The two sides had been negotiating an agreement for a year and were close to an announcement in September 2019 when President Trump abruptly declared the process “dead,” citing Taliban violence.
Taliban sources told AFP this month they had offered to initiate a brief ceasefire of seven to 10 days to restart the talks formally, but there has been no announcement of such a proposal by either party.
© Agence France-Presse