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.