The Air Force, other U.S. aircraft and allies dropped more bombs on Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq in November than in any month for the past year.
Meanwhile, the number of weapons released in Afghanistan has already hit its highest point in years, according to new statistics released by U.S. Air Forces Central Command.
In the November 2018 summary posted online Friday, AFCENT said that 1,424 weapons were released that month as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the campaign against ISIS. That’s far more than the previous 2018 record set in October, when 876 weapons were released. And its the most since October 2017, when 1,642 weapons were released.
Overall, however, 2018 was on track to end with by far the lowest number of bombs dropped of any year since the anti-ISIS campaign began. This reflects how the war against the militant group in Iraq and Syria has ebbed since its peak in 2016 and 2017, when the coalition waged furious bombing campaigns to drive ISIS out of cities such as Mosul, Iraq, and Raqqa, Syria.
By the end of November, the coalition had released 6,499 weapons in 2018 against ISIS. That’s down from the 39,577 bombs dropped in 2017, and 30,743 weapons released in 2016.
The November increase in weapons released occurred before President Trump began ordering troops to be withdrawn from Syria, and before former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis resigned in protest in December.
AFCENT’s airpower summary did not include a written portion providing more detail on the month’s activities and changes. The last monthly summary that included such details was in August 2018.
AFCENT has not yet responded to questions from Air Force Times about November’s airpower statistics.
The coalition also released 841 weapons in Afghanistan in November — the same as in September, and the highest of the year.
Those months are also the highest monthly totals in at least six years. The coalition released 6,823 weapons in the first 11 months of 2018.
That’s more than the 4,361 bombs dropped in 2017, and vastly higher than the 947 weapons released in 2015 and the 1,337 bombs dropped in 2016.
In the first 11 months of 2018, manned strike aircraft from the coalition flew the most sorties — 7,291 — since 2014, when 12,978 such sorties were flown. That’s up from the 4,603 manned strike sorties flown in 2017.
But more of those sorties are flying without any weapons being released. So far in 2018, 884 manned strike aircraft sorties had at least one weapon release. But that’s down from 1,248 in 2017.
The coalition has also dramatically increased its airdropping of supplies. From January to November 2018, 602,980 pounds of supplies were airdropped in Afghanistan, according to the statistics. That’s up from 33,423 pounds the previous year. And in 2015 and 2016, no supplies were airdropped, the statistics said.
AFCENT said earlier in 2018 that the increased supply airdrops were intended to help sustain operations against the Taliban last spring and summer.
However, while airdrops have increased, they’re still far lower than the 10.8 million pounds of supplies that were dropped in 2013.
Stephen Losey covers leadership and personnel issues as the senior reporter for Air Force Times. He comes from an Air Force family, and his investigative reports have won awards from the Society of Professional Journalists. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover Air Force operations against the Islamic State.