WASHINGTON — The Pentagon dropped the most munitions in Afghanistan during the month of September with the highest monthly assault in nine years, officials confirmed Wednesday – a reaction in part to the collapse of peace talks.
According to Air Forces Central Command, 948 munitions struck Afghanistan last month. That is the greatest amount for a single months since the 1,043 munitions levied during October 2010, considered one of the peak years of the 18-year war.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper foreshadowed the numbers when he held a press conference earlier this month in the Pentagon.
“We did step up our attacks on the Taliban since the talks broke down,” Esper said. “You know, the president spoke about this publicly — we did pick up the pace considerably.”
In August, the total was 783 munitions, reflecting a steady increase this year.
The new numbers were first reported by the Military Times.
The Associated Press reported that representatives of the Taliban met U.S. envoy for Afghanistan peace negotiations Zalmay Khalilzad on Oct. 4 in Pakistan. It was the first meeting between the Taliban and Khalilzad since peace talks ended in early September.
Meanwhile, the Afghan National Directorate of Security, which is the nation’s chief intelligence operation, sent a Tweet Tuesday that said a joint U.S.-Afghan raid on September 23 killed a top Al Qaeda official.
Asim Omar, the leader of al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent, or AQIS, was among the six killed in the attack in Helmand Province, the Afghans said. Also killed was a courier for Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, Pentagon officials confirmed Wednesday.
Zawahiri has directed Al Qaeda since Osama Bin Laden was killed in a U.S. special operations raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan in May 2011.
— By Tom Squitieri