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US Drones Now Fly More Airstrikes Than Fighters In Afghanistan

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US Drone Strikes Outnumber Warplane Attacks for First Time In Afghanistan (excerpt)

(Source: The Guardian; published April 20, 2016)

Drones are firing more weapons than conventional warplanes for the first time in Afghanistan and the ratio is rising, previously unreported US Air Force data for 2015 show, underlining how reliant the military has become on unmanned aircraft.

The data show strikes by unmanned aircraft accounted for 56% of weapons deployed by the air force in Afghanistan in 2015, up dramatically from 5% in 2011.

In the first quarter of 2016, about 300 weapons were deployed by the air force, with drones accounting for 61%.

The trend may give clues to the US military’s strategy as it considers withdrawing more troops from the country, while at the same time shoring up local forces who have struggled to stem a worsening Taliban insurgency.

In 2015, drones released about 530 bombs and missiles in Afghanistan, half the number in 2014 when weapons dropped by unmanned aircraft peaked.

The 2015 total is, however, almost double the number of bombs and missiles released by drones at the height of the “surge”, when the Nato mission expanded to well over 100,000 troops, mainly Americans, after 2009.

President Barack Obama said in 2013 the Afghan drawdown after 2014 and progress against al-Qaida would “reduce the need for unmanned strikes”, amid concerns from human rights groups and some foreign governments about civilian casualties.

On one level, that has played out; the number of missiles and bombs dropped by drones in Afghanistan actually fell in 2015, largely because the US-led Nato mission ceased combat operations at the end of 2014 and is now a fraction of the size.

Yet as the force has shrunk, it has leant on unmanned aircraft more than ever, the Air Force data reveals, with drone strikes accounting for at least 61% of weapons deployed in the first quarter of this year. (end of excerpt)

Click here for the full story, on the Guardian website.