A developing stance on the Afghan war
The U.S. dropped 26,171 bombs last year, 3,027 more than 2015.
According to an analysis of Defense Department data from the Council on Foreign Relations, a non-partisan think tank, the majority of the bombs were dropped in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. leads an international coalition fighting the Islamic State group in both countries and has carried out air operations in attempt to reduce the area controlled by the terrorist organization.
Nearly the same amount of bombs were dropped in Syria (12,192) and Iraq (12,095) last year.
President Barack Obama sought to draw down American military presence abroad and has resisted committing ground troops to various international conflicts. Despite pushes from within his administration to commit U.S. military forces to the civil war in Syria, Obama kept U.S. military action in the country focused on the Islamic State group. He was widely criticized for failing to follow through on the “red line” he set over Syrian President Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons against his own people.
The U.S. dropped 79 percent of the anti-Islamic State group coalition bombs in Syria and Iraq, totaling 24,287. That figure, along with others analyzed by CFR, is likely lower than the actual number dropped because one airstrike can involved multiple bombs.
Obama did authorize a troop surge in Afghanistan — a conflict he pledged to end during his campaign — where the U.S. dropped 1,337 bombs in 2016. There are currently 8,400 U.S. troops left in the country, more than Obama initially wanted to keep there at the end of his term. The U.S. only dropped 947 bombs in Afghanistan in 2015.
The U.S. also dropped more bombs in Libya in 2016 than it did in 2015. Nearly 500 bombs were dropped in the North African country that has essentially been ungoverned since the fall of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. He was captured and killed during the Libyan Civil War, kicked off by the Arab Spring protests that also began the Syrian conflict.
There were 34 American bombs dropped last year in Yemen, where the war began in 2015. That’s fewer than the 58 bombs the U.S. dropped there that year. The U.S. supports Saudi Arabia in the conflict, although it announced in December it will limit military support following criticism about the role American weapons and technology have played in civilian casualties.
In 2016, 14 bombs were dropped in Somalia, which has faced decades of instability, and three were dropped in Pakistan.