WASHINGTON — The summer has become bombs away season for the Pentagon, with the military on pace to set records in two of the plethora of war zones where U.S. forces are active.
In Afghanistan, the U.S. flew 749 strike sorties, 88 of which included a weapons release, during July. Both are monthly highs for this year, the Air Force said in a press release. The U.S. used 746 weapons — meaning bombs and drones — in July, the highest monthly total since November 2010, according to the release.
“U.S. strikes, coupled with the increasing capability of and strikes by the Afghan Air Forces, strengthens the position of the Afghan government,” Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, Combined Forces Air Component Commander for U.S. Central Command, said in the release. “In support of Afghans and the Afghan government, the U.S. and our international partners will continue using military pressure to drive the Taliban to reconcile.”
The July numbers put the Pentagon on pace to set a record for the year. Through July, the total number of weapons released — which includes both manned and unmanned platforms — was 3,714. As a total number that is not a record but with between 300 and 700 weapons dropped each month, the final 2018 total could exceed the 4,361 record release last year, the Air Force said.
The numbers are smaller in Somalia but still notably rising.
In the fight against al-Shabaab terrorists in Somalia, U.S Africa Command has struck 21 times this year, which ties the record set in 2017, according to a second press release Wednesday.
“U.S. forces will continue to use all authorized and appropriate measures to protect U.S. citizens and to disable terrorist threats,” the release said. “This includes partnering with AMISOM [African Union Mission to Somalia] and Somali National Security Forces (SNSF) in combined counterterrorism operations and targeting terrorists, their training camps, and their safe havens throughout Somalia and the region.”
This year’s strikes in Somalia have a wider geographic scope, according to FDD’s Long War Journal, which first reported the numbers.
Drone strikes are also on pace for a record in Niger, Pentagon officials had said earlier.
The number of air strikes diminished in the Syria/Iraq theater as efforts to reduce the ISIS footprint have succeeded. According to the press release, there have been 9,471 sorties to date this year in that war zone with 481 of those with at least one weapon release. The high-water mark was 2016, with 21,181 sorties and 11,825 weapon releases.