First Full Year of Trump-Run Foreign Policy Sees Record Number of Bombs Dropped on Afghanistan

Both casualties and expenses are rising.


The Melania Trump–led firing of deputy national security adviser Mira Ricardel has prompted some speculation about whether this means the influence of Ricardel's boss, superhawk John Bolton, is on the wane and a new dawn for non-interventionism is on the way.


If you're assessing how serious a peacenik Trump is prepared to be, you should contemplate some hard facts about Washington's longest-lasting active war: the U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan.

According to an interesting analysis that Niall McCarthy of Statista has done of Air Force Central Command data, 2018—the first full year that the Trump administration has run the Afghanistan coalition—saw in just its first nine months more bombs dropped on Afghanistan than any other year in the history of the war: 5,213. The entire year of 2010, the previous record, saw just 5,101.

The number of bombs dropped had declined to 947 in 2015; in 2016, it was 1,337. But after "Trump announced a new Afghan strategy last August and committed more troops to the country," McCarthy writes, "the number of bombs dropped by the U.S. coalition has surged dramatically."

Secretary of Defense James Mattis is the architect of a policy of firing more at the enemy while trying to minimize direct contact with them, an approach in keeping with a broad trend toward keeping the political pressure on intervention down by keeping U.S. casualties down.

While the number of bombs dropped is much higher, the number of air sorties flown has come down considerably. For example, 2013 saw 21,900 sorties, 1,408 of which dropped at least one bomb, while 2018 saw just 5,819 sorties, 673 of which dropped at least one bomb. Still, 2018's total bombs dropped nearly doubled 2013's number.

Meanwhile, McCarthy notes, "the number of civilian casualties in the first nine months of 2018 is higher than in any year since [the United Nations] started documenting."

Elsewhere in Reason: The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction's most recent reports show the generally deteriorating security, economic, and political situation there after 17 years of the U.S. war. Senate hearings have spelled out how poorly conceived and poorly supervised U.S. reconstruction spending is over there.

NEXT: Federal Judge Rules Trump White House Must Return Jim Acosta's Press Pass

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  1. To be fair, the number of bombs dropped is not a good metric for measuring the success or failure of the mission any more than total yards from scrimmage is a good metric for measuring success or failure in a football game.

    Granted, I have no idea what the mission is and therefore how you’d go about measuring its success or failure, maybe the mission is “let’s see how many bombs we can drop on Afghanistan” in which case we are succeeding. But I don’t think the actual mission is a bomb-dropping contest.

    1. One of the missions is to keep Afghanistan stable since the USA wiped out the Taliban government that kept Afghanistan stable.

  2. The number of civilian casualties in the first nine months of 2018 is higher than in any year since [the United Nations] started documenting.

    Thought this was important to repeat, just in case all the toadstool gobblers were itching to tell us about how we have a peace president.

  3. The number of US casualties is super low though.

    I think the USA should have left Afghanistan years ago but if we’re there better to drop bombs than have US casualties.

    2001 12 12
    2002 70 49
    2003 58 48
    2004 60 52
    2005 131 99
    2006 191 98
    2007 232 117
    2008 295 155
    2009 521 317
    2010 711 499
    2011 566 418
    2012 402 310
    2013 161 127
    2014 75 55
    2015 27 22
    2016 16 14
    2017 17 15
    2018** 2 2

    1. The subject is civilian deaths you malicious toady.

      1. Civilian deaths were happening under Obama too. Do the deaths only matter when it becomes a record number?

        1. Apparently they only matter to LC when they happen under a Democrat.

      2. To right-wingers, non-white casualties don’t count.

        Unless it’s as a plus.

        Bigots gotta bigot.

        Carry on, clingers. So long as your betters permit, that is.

  4. what’s the metric on “civilian casualties”?

      1. “from what” is missing. not keen on UN statistics

  5. I learned in college one of the reasons women are better leaders than men is because women are more predisposed to peace, and therefore less likely to engage in military action. That was a big part of why I voted for Hillary Clinton ? she certainly wouldn’t be as bloodthirsty as Drumpf when it comes to bombing brown people. But we’ll have a Democratic Commander in Chief (hopefully a woman) by 2021 at the latest. That will make the situation in Afghanistan improve dramatically for everyone.


    1. #StillWithHerBombingLibya

  6. The dream that the U.S. can “win” in Afghanistan needs to die a quick death.

  7. I’m glad we had a Nobel peace prize winner followed by a non-interventionist as POTUS to end this failed and nonsensical war.

    Seriously, the Taliban are human excrement, but not one of them was on a plane on 911. The warmongering fucknuts keeping this fiasco going should be horse whipped.

  8. I have an idea. Flood the area with free pornography.

    1. Another free Wifi boondooggle by the state? Are we giving them Obama phones too?

  9. Whoever it was that first called Afghanistan “the graveyard of empires” was pretty freaking wise.

    1. Perhaps we should pull out, but Afghanistan was a part of empires before. It was incorporated into Alexander the Great’s Empire. It was also part of the Persian Empire. This summary of Afghanistan’s history says the Russian speakers and the English speakers have been fighting over Afghanistan for almost 2 centuries. What type of stability are we trying to achieve? All the military might in the world might not make it happen for generations.

  10. As Donald Trump would put it, “…sad”

  11. Well his MIC golfing buddies need bigger boats and vacay homes.

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