A note on our data and methodology
U.S. drones and jets have been bombing Afghanistan since late 2001 and the airstrikes look set to continue into the Trump administration.
For most of the past 15 years, U.S. aircraft operated alongside allied air forces. However this changed on January 1 2015. From that point the U.S. became the only air force known to be flying fast jets or armed drones in Afghanistan. A handful of European allies have kept some transport helicopters in the country to support the Nato Resolute Support Mission.
Besides the U.S., the Afghan Air Force (AAF) is the only other force carrying out air strikes in Afghanistan. As of June 1 2016 the AAF operated at least 41 strike-capable aircraft. This number is increasing as more helicopters and fixed-wing ground attack aircraft are delivered to the AAF and are sent to the frontline.
The number of AAF strikes is not publicly known however the UN has reported an increasing number of civilian casualties from the attacks. The UN counted 126 civilian casualties in 2015 – 46 were killed and 80 injured. In the UN’s six-month report in 2016 the number of civilian casualties had doubled compared with the same period the year before, with with 161 casualties in January to June – 57 killed and 104 injured.
Those incidents that are reported in Afghan and international media are recorded in this timeline, for reference, though not included in the running tallies in the tables below.
On January 1 2015 the international commitment in Afghanistan took on a new form. The U.S. and Nato started their non-combat “Train, Advise, Assist” mission supporting the Afghan police and army. Alongside this, the U.S. began a counter-terrorism mission hunting al Qaeda and its allies.
The events detailed below occurred in 2017. They have been reported by U.S., Afghan and Pakistani civil, military and intelligence officials, through credible media, academic and other sources, including the Bureau’s own field researchers and published investigations.
This is not an exhaustive list. The U.S. Air Force publishes monthly summaries of its operations over Afghanistan, including how many strike missions it has flown and how many bombs and missiles have been released. This information is published one month late but still indicates a greater number of strikes than the Bureau’s tally. The U.S. figures are summarised in the table below and can be downloaded from the U.S. Air Force website.
For more on our methodology, see the notes page in our database of strikes accessible here. A more detailed analysis of the U.S. Air Force’s figures are also maintained in this sheet.
The Bureau uses a C suffix on the six digit alphanumeric strike code when there are unresolved questions over the attribution of a strike, or its sourcing. They are not included in our casualty estimates.
In order to give some context to the strikes, brief summaries of events in Afghanistan and internationally have been included in the timeline. These might include noteworthy military and political events in Afghanistan or political developments in Washington or Islamabad, for example. Some of these summaries include a body count – they are not included in the Bureau’s casualty estimates and they do not have a six figure alphanumeric code.
This research is part of the Bureau’s covert drone war project. The Bureau has collected extensive data on U.S. drone strikes and air strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.
|Reported U.S. strikes, Afghanistan 2017|
by U.S. Air Force
by the Bureau
|Total reported strikes:||—||1|
|Total reported killed:||—||4|
|Civilians reported killed:||—||0|
|Children reported killed:||—||0|
|Total reported injured:||—||0|
The Air Force publishes its data online in an Air Power Summary – the monthly figures are posted in the second week of the following month. For example, data for January will be posted in the second week of February. Therefore, the figures in the table above and below are only ever accurate up to the end of the previous month.
|U.S. Air Force reported air operations, Afghanistan 2017
|Total Close Air Support (CAS) sorties
with at least one weapon release
|Total CAS sorties||–|
|Total weapons released||–|
Monitoring the U.S. drone and air strikes in Afghanistan: A new project for the Bureau
The current international missions in Afghanistan sprang into life on January 1 2015, with clear roots in the international military operations that came before.
The Nato-led operation, Resolute Support Mission (RSM), is a non-combat mission in the country to train, assist and advise the Afghan police and army – a role it inherited from Nato’s International Security Assistance Force (Isaf). As of the most recent public tally, in October 2016, there were 39 countries contributing soldiers to RSM, ranging from more than 860 Georgian troops to one from Luxembourg.
The U.S. mission, Operation Freedom Sentinel (OFS) in part fulfils the same functions as RSM. Most are part of RSM’s training mission but a significant counter-terrorism element remains. This is largely a continuation of the 14 year long Operation Enduring Freedom mission, the banner U.S. and allied forces first entered Afghanistan under back in October 2001 to hunt down al Qaeda.
After the U.S. and its allies scattered the Taliban and al Qaeda in 2001, the UN sent in a peacekeeping force to secure the capital. This assistance force, Isaf, was meant to last six months to allow the government to find its feet and hold elections. In 2003 the UN decided to hand over control of Isaf to Nato. As the years went by, it became less about peacekeeping and more about fighting the Afghan Taliban insurgency.
Similarly, Operation Enduring Freedom changed from its initial special operations-focused hunt for terrorists. It too became increasingly focused on countering the Taliban insurgency.
The U.S. has considerable firepower at its disposal to support this mission. The Air Force operates F-16 strike, aircraft stationed at Bagram Air Base near Kabul, as well as Predator and Reaper drones based at Kandahar and Jalalabad. The U.S. Army still has Apache attack helicopters in the country. The CIA still operates drones from Afghanistan and the U.S. Air Force continues to fly AC-130 gunships, such as the aircraft that carried out the catastrophic October 3 2015 strike in Kunduz that hit a charity-run hospital.
January 2 2016
♦ 10 reported killed
According to Khaama Press, the “provincial police commandment” said a U.S. drone strike killed at least ten members of Afghanistan’s branch of Islamic State.
The date of the strike was not mentioned in the reporting. The sourcing is also too vague to confirm this as a U.S. strike as yet.
Type of strike: Possible U.S. strike
Location: Haska Mena district, Nangarhar province
References: Khaama Press
January 2 2016
♦ 21 reported killed
Afghanistan’s Ministry of Interior reported 21 alleged Taliban members had been killed in multiple air strikes in Logar province.
Specific dates for the strikes were not given but the information was reported by Khaama Press on January 2.
It is not clear whether Afghan or U.S. forces conducted the strikes.
Type of strike: Possible U.S. strike
Location: Logar province
References: Khaama Press
January 10 2016
♦ 4 reported killed
Four people were killed in a U.S. drone strike on a car in the evening of January 10, according to Zar Moeed Mukhlis, “administrative chief” in the town of Aziz Kala.
The four were said to be members of the Haqqani Network, two of them commanders in the terrorist syndicate. The commanders, Nazar Jan and Rohullah, were killed in the strike, Mukhlis said. They were “a bomb planter and in charge of the group’s weapons supply”, according to Pajhwok News though it was not clear which role was attributed to which of the men.
An unidentified local corroborated the strike hit a vehicle near Aziz Kala though did not have any information about casualties, Pajhwok reported.
Type of strike: Possible US strike
Location: Aziz Kala town, Sabri district, Khost province