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09 February, 2017

Record number of civilians killed and injured in 2016 Afghan airstrikes

Air attacks by Afghan and international forces caused a total of 590 civilian casualties in 2016 (250 deaths and 340 people injured), almost double that of 2015.

by Jack Serle

Part 3 - Resurgent Taliban versus hamstrung Afghan forces

The US and its allies from Nato and other international partners are faced with a dilemma. The Taliban is resurgent and the Afghan forces, hamstrung by poor logistics, leadership and corruption, are struggling.

They have needed more and more international support but NATO’s Resolute Support Mission (RSM), led by the US, has seen its numbers dwindle since the end of combat operations in December 2014. This means the Americans are trying to fight an insurgency largely from the air.

US air attacks have increased by around 50% since 2015 – largely thanks to a change in rules in June that meant the Americans could specifically target the Taliban. Before then only al Qaeda and Islamic State could be specifically targeted.

A surge in the number of American strikes from July through to October appeared to be the result of the US trying to cut down the Taliban and keep the Afghans holding the line.

Air support is crucial in the fight against the Taliban. Strikes stop the insurgents from massing in large numbers because such formations present too easy a target. Strikes are also essential to save soldiers pinned down in insurgent attacks.

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