January 28, 2020 "Information
Clearing House" -
Under the Trump
administration U.S. air attacks in Afghanistan have
sharply increased. But it now seems that the Taliban
have acquired some means to counter them.
According to the Combined Forces Air Component
Commander (CFACC) 2013-2019 Airpower Statistics
released in late January, 7,423 missions flown
in Afghanistan in 2019 resulted in weapons being
released. There were more weapon releases in
most months of the year than in any
corresponding months since records were first
released in 2009, with September recording the
most for the year at 948.
The previous annual record was 7,362 set in
2018, and the last two years together have seen
more weapon releases over Afghanistan than the
combined number for 2012 through to 2017.
Twenty bombing strikes per day is a quite
astonishing number. Many civilians get killed in
this U.S. bombing campaign. The U.S. often seems not
to know who it is hitting.
This report from last week is typical:
A drone attack carried out by U.S. forces
earlier this month in western Afghanistan that
apparently targeted a splinter Taliban group
also killed at least 10 civilians, including
three women and three children, an Afghan rights
official and a council member said Wednesday.
There was no immediate comment from the Afghan
military or the U.S. forces. But Wakil Ahmad
Karokhi, a provincial council member in Herat,
said the Jan. 8 strike also killed the commander
of a Taliban splinter group, known as Mullah
Nangyalia, along with 15 other militants.
The commanders funeral the following day was
held in the Herat provincial capital’s Guzargah
neighborhood, and was attended by dozens of
Karokhi criticized the strike as “huge
mistake” saying the commander had been a useful
buffer against the Taliban in Shindand district,
taking up arms with his fighters against the
insurgents “when no one else would do it" and
leaving the area's civilians in peace.
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The U.S. military and its allies and Afghan
proxies are not the only ones fighting. The Taliban
can hit back at helicopters and planes and, judging
from the number of recent air incidents, they now
have found effective means to do so. Two days ago
they destroyed another helicopter:
Afghan sources say the Taliban
claimed that they shot down the plane. Others
deny that. What is sure though is that the plane
crashed into Taliban held territory. At least two
persons on board were killed.
flying radio relay stations have been in Afghanistan
for a while. A military
report from March 2017 said:
Called “as essential to mission success as
bullets,” the E-11A Battlefield Airborne
Communications Node flew its 10,000th sortie
Feb. 24, 2017 at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan,
since arriving in Afghanistan eight years ago.
The 430th Expeditionary Electronic Squadron
operating out of Kandahar is the only unit in
the U.S. Air Force that operates the E-11A with
the BACN payload. It was created to fulfill what
is called a joint urgent operational need, when
it was identified that the terrain of
Afghanistan posed serious communication
appear to exist only four of these planes which
are heavily modified Bombardier Global 6000 ultra
long-range business jets. They are only used in
The loss is significant. The ground troops depend
on radio communication when they direct bombers to
their targets. Without the flying relay stations
they have no chance to do so in Afghanistan's
It is not known what new means the Taliban have
to take down planes and helicopters. In 2018 a few
Stinger anti-air missiles
were found during a raid on some Taliban. But
those seem to have been old and were probably no
longer functioning. Helicopters can be brought down
with machine guns or even with anti-tank missiles
But the E-11A usually fly at a significant
altitude and the crashed plane was not near an
airport. The usual man-portable air-defense missiles
(MANPAD) like the U.S. made Stinger reach a maximum
altitude of only some 3.500 meters.
That opens the possibility that the Taliban have
acquired new supplies of larger missiles. One
wonders where those would come from.
On January 5 Hizbullah leader Hassan Nazrallah
announced how the 'resistance axis' would
respond to the U.S. murder of the Iranian General
Soleimani and the Iraqi PMU leader Al-Muhandis.
The response to the blood of Soleimani and Al-Muhandis
must be expulsion of all U.S. forces from the
Using effective means to take down even high
flying U.S. planes would be one possible way to
achieve that aim.
But Iran is not the only possible source of such
missiles. China and Russia also produce effective
anti-air missiles and the military in Pakistan and
in Tajikistan have bought those in significant
numbers. All these countries usually hold back from
providing anti-air missiles to militants as they
could also endanger their own (civil) airplanes.
But the loss of five aircraft in one month in
Afghanistan might well mean that this has changed.
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