In the fallout of peace negotiations between the United States and Afghanistan’s Taliban insurgency, the U.S. has increased its air campaign to the highest level in nine years.
Sources for the U.S. Air Force recorded a total of 948 munitions were dropped over Afghan targets in the month of September, according to Military Times. The report of September air operations showed the highest number of bombs dropped on Afghanistan since October 2010, around the time then-President Barack Obama called for a troop surge in the country.
The 2010 surge marked the height of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan since the start of the 18-year war. Around 100,000 U.S. troops were deployed to Afghanistan in October 2010, whereas roughly 14,000 U.S. troops remain in the country today.
Prior to the U.S. air campaign in September, U.S. forces dropped 783 munitions in August.
On Saturday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters U.S. forces had indeed increased its aerial attacks on Taliban targets.
“We did step up our attacks on the Taliban since the talks broke down. You know, the president spoke about this publicly — we did pick up the pace considerably,” Esper said.
On the Friday prior to Esper’s comments, the Associated Press reported Taliban negotiators had met on Oct. 4 with U.S. Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad. The meeting marks the first round of negotiations since Trump called off peace talks in September, but it is not yet clear if the meeting will lead to a new peace agreement.
The increase in U.S. bombing activities follows in the aftermath of failed peace negotiations between the U.S. and Taliban. In September, President Donald Trump called off a meeting with Taliban envoys scheduled to take place at Camp David, citing a recent Taliban bombing that killed a U.S. service member and other civilians.
In response to Trump’s decision, the Taliban vowed, “The Americans will suffer more than anyone else for canceling the talks.”
Despite the continued Taliban pressure to sign off on a peace agreement, Trump said peace talks were “dead” and during a Sept. 11 speech commemorating the 18 years since the 9/11 terrorist hijackings that initiated the Afghan conflict, Trump said the U.S. would hit the Taliban “harder” than ever.
Near the end of August and through the early part of September, Taliban forces did appear to launch a new offensive to capture the city of Kunduz and several other Afghan urban centers.
In September, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani estimated the Taliban lost nearly 2,000 fighters in a failed attempt to capture an Afghan city.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also estimated nearly 1,000 Taliban fighters were killed over a 10-day period in September alone.