US forces in Afghanistan dropped a record number of bombs last year, more than at any other time in at least 10 years, according to the US Air Force.
The US has dropped 7,423 bombs on targets in Afghanistan in 2019, marking a rise from the 7,362 munitions dropped in 2018, US Air Forces Central Command (AFCENT) said in a report released on Monday.
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The figure represents a dramatic increase in bombings in Afghanistan in contrast to 2009 when 4,147 bombs were dropped under former President Barack Obama.
The US has now ramped up air bombings since President Donald Trump was elected in 2016 as Washington removed a requirement that said the targets should be “proximate” to US or Afghan forces in order to prevent civilian casualties.
The United Nations and rights groups have repeatedly expressed concerns over the increase in air raids across the country by US and Afghan forces that have resulted in a dramatic rise in civilian casualties.
On Sunday, at least seven civilians, including three children were killed in government air raids in Afghanistan’s northern Balkh province that triggered protests from residents.
Earlier this month, more than 60 civilians were killed or wounded in a US drone attack targeting a top Taliban splinter-group commander in the western Afghanistan province of Herat.
Resolute Support, NATO’s mission in Afghanistan, said in a statement that it launched “a defensive air strike in support of Afghan forces”, with a spokesman confirming US participation in the operation.
In October, UN said it had credible reports of US air attacks on alleged Taliban drug laboratories resulting in the death of at least 30 civilians, including children. The US-led mission in Afghanistan quickly disputed the claim.
The raids targeted 60 sites in Farah Province and neighboring Nimruz Province.
In the first half of 2019, 717 civilians were killed by government forces, including US, representing a dramatic increase of 31 percent from a year earlier, the UN reported last year.
The spike in hostilities comes as the US and the Taliban continue to push for a possible agreement that would see US troops withdrawing from Afghanistan in return for security guarantees.
Multiple sources close to the talks said the Taliban had agreed to scale down attacks against US forces and Afghan government forces. The US demands a ceasefire from the group before any agreement could be finalised.