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US airstrikes in Afghanistan tripled in 2017: Official

 

The US Air Force has tripled the number of airstrikes across Afghanistan since last year, according to a spokesman for US and NATO forces in the country.

The US military carried out nearly 900 airstrikes against purported Daesh (ISIL) and Taliban positions across Afghan territories between January and April this year, US Navy Captain Bill Salvin told DPA, Turkey’s Daily Sabah reported Monday.

According to Salvin, former US President Barack Obama had authorized the Commander of the US force in Afghanistan General John Nicholson to plan more air raids in June 2016.

The number of civilian losses has also seen a dramatic increase in 2017, with 72 people killed and 76 others injured. Last year, only eight were killed and 21 were hurt.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has described the soaring casualties as “disturbing.”

Overall, 250 civilians were killed and 340 were injured in US airstrikes in Afghanistan last year, a 99 percent increase from 2015, according to the UN.

Despite the worrying increase in civilian casualties, Nicholson has asked Washington and its allies for thousands of more troops there.

Earlier this month, American officials said the US military needs between 3,000 and 5,000 additional troops, including hundreds of Special Operations forces, in Afghanistan.

A US soldier patrols near the site of a US bombing during an operation against Daesh militants in the Achin district of Nangarhar province, April 15, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

The US currently has around 8,400 soldiers in Afghanistan with another 5,000 troops from NATO allies.

Washington plans to ask its allies in NATO to send 3,000 to 5,000 more soldiers to Afghanistan, and the precise number of US troops deployed would probably depend on what those allies were prepared to do, according to The New York Times.

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The administration of US President Donald Trump has been planning to change the US mission’s stated priorities of training and advising Afghan forces and focus instead on carrying out strikes against terror groups such as Daesh.

This change of policy was put on display earlier this month, when General John Nicholson, the top commander of US/NATO troops in Afghanistan, ordered his troops to drop the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) bomb—also known as Mother of All Bombs—on a purported Daesh target in the eastern province of Nangarhar.

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