A note on our data and methodology
US 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, US aircraft operated alongside allied air forces. However this changed on January 1 2015. From that point the US 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 US, 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 c vilian 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 US and Nato started their non-combat “Train, Advise, Assist” mission supporting the Afghan police and army. Alongside this, the US began a counter-terrorism mission hunting al Qaeda and its allies.
The events detailed below occurred in 2017. They have been reported by US, 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 US 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 US figures are summarised in the table below and can be downloaded from the US 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 US 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 US drone strikes and air strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.
Monitoring the US 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 US 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 US and allied forces first entered Afghanistan under back in October 2001 to hunt down al Qaeda.
After the US 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.
Two Pakistani media outlets reported a drone strike on February 2 in Afghanistan’s Khost province, hitting close to its border with Pakistan.
They differed on who was killed. Dawn reported sources saying Mullah Akhtar Rasool, the leader of an Afghan Taliban faction, was killed when a drone hit a vehicle with two missiles in the Ali Sher area. This falls in Tere Zayi district. Five Afghan Taliban members were killed, it said.
The Express Tribune said that Mullah Muhammad Rasool’s nephew and son-in-law were killed. However the reporting around the strike was unclear with a police spokesperson reportedly saying that Mullah Akhtar Rasool and four others were in car heading towards their hideout when they were targeted. The car was completely destroyed, the spokesperson said. It also said that six Taliban members were killed.
Both media outlets said the claims had not been independently verified.
Mullah Muhammad Rasool and Mullah Akhtar Rasool appear to be the same person, but Baaghi TV says Mullah Akhtar is Muhammad Rasool’s nephew.
Captain William Salvin confirmed US Forces conducted a counter-terrorism strike in Khost province but said it took place on February 1. General Faizullah Ghairt, the police chief of Khost province, confirmed to Xinhua that a strike took place on the night of February 1 and an unnamed source told the media outlet that four members of the Haqqani Network had been killed in it.
Khaama Press reported that five members of Afghanistan’s branch of Islamic State had been killed and five others wounded in two separate US drone strikes.
The first strike, which hit Gorgori area of Haska Mena district at 9am local time, killed four fighters and wounded a further three, according to the provincial police commandment.
The second was reportedly the strike that killed Shahid Omar which is recorded in the entry above. The first strikes sourcing is too vague to confirm as yet.
The article was published at Get the data: A list of US air and drone strikes, Afghanistan 2017.