As the fights for Mosul, Iraq, and Raqqa, Syria heated up in October and November, the coalition fighting the Islamic State group ramped up its airstrikes to the highest point all year.
According to U.S. Air Forces Central Command statistics, the coalition — including the Air Force and other U.S. services and allied nations' air forces — released 3,038 weapons in October and 2,709 in November. Those 5,747 weapons released represent the coalition's busiest two-month stretch against ISIS in 2016.
Not all of the strikes, of course, came in support of Iraqi and Kurdish forces' effort to retake the strategically key city of Mosul from ISIS. But Brett McGurk, President Obama's counter-ISIS envoy, has noted the increase in airstrikes accompanying the Mosul battle, which began Oct. 17.
"One week into #Mosul operation, all objectives met thus far, and more coalition airstrikes than any other 7-day period of war against #ISIL," McGurk tweeted Oct. 24.
And the Kurdish-led, U.S.-backed Syria Democratic Forces in November launched an operation, dubbed Euphrates Rage, to retake Raqqa. That operation, like the Mosul battle, has also been supported by coalition airstrikes that aimed to soften targets and cut off transit routes that allowed ISIS to move weapons, people and supplies.
The coalition's busiest single month this year was in June, when it released 3,160 weapons. And the 2,718 weapons released in January were slightly higher than its November tally. But there were no two months combined in which the coalition was busier than in October and November.
At the same time, 533 fewer weapons were released in November than in November 2015.
"The biggest factor in November 2015 was the Ramadi offensive," said AFCENT spokeswoman Kiley Dougherty in an email. "Additionally, the coalition was dropping a significant number of munitions in support of [Kurdish] Peshmerga in Northern Iraq last year.
"Due to urban fighting, the number of weapons required per week for the Mosul offensive is about 350," Dougherty said. "This is mainly based on the ground offensive's exposed front lines and our partner force's level of activity, not the size of the city. It is important to note that [Iraqi security forces were] engaged in deliberate urban fighting throughout November, hence there was not the same requirement for air support as there was last year."
Through the end of November, the coalition has this year released 27,800 weapons as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, and appears on track to top the 28,696 weapons released in 2015. For 2016 airstrikes to fall short of 2015 levels, the coalition would have to release fewer than 900 weapons in December, which has not happened since the operation's first month in August 2014.
The coalition also ramped up its airstrikes against ISIS last November and December in response to the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris.
The coalition has so far released 1,272 weapons over Afghanistan in 2016 — a 34 percent increase over the previous year, according to AFCENT statistics.
But the 2016 airstrike tally in Afghanistan, while higher than the recent low of 947 last year, is still far below the recent high of 5,411 weapons released in 2011. This year's jump in Afghanistan airstrikes marks the first year-over-year increase in five years.
"This year has just been more active than 2015," said Dougherty in an email.
"Numbers had been dropping for the past 5 years in Afghanistan and 2015 appears to be a minimum of that trend," Dougherty said. "We believe most of the increase is just noise in the data."
President Obama this year has expanded the mission for the U.S. troops remaining in Afghanistan, giving the military new authorities to attack a fledgling ISIS faction that emerged in the eastern Nangarhar province, and to conduct airstrikes to support the Afghan army's offensive against the Taliban.
Stephen Losey covers Air Force leadership and personnel issues as the senior reporter for Air Force Times.