American air support in Afghanistan is continuing to increase. In August 2017 aircraft used 503 smart bombs or missiles. Aerial weapons use (or “weapon release”) hasn’t been this high since August 2012. This trend began in February 2017 and if it continues the number of “weapons released” will approach levels not seen since 2012.
The U.S. has also resumed air drops of supplies for the first time since 2014. In 2012 this was a large scale activity with 19,000 tons dropped by parachute for the year. That declined to about 13 tons for all of 2014 and is, so far, only 5.5 tons for 2017. There has been a slight increase in airlift sorties but the air drops are what Afghan forces need most because they often find themselves cut off by Taliban blocking roads and forcing the Afghan forces to be withdrawn because of inability to get new supplies of ammo and other essentials.
All of the weapons used are guided, a trend that began in the 1990s. Moreover the accuracy has been increased by the growing use of targeting pods and laser guided (as opposed to GPS guided) weapons. Targeting pods enable the pilot (while 5,000 meters up) to get a very clear look at the target, day or night, and even make out who is carrying weapons. Laser guided weapons will land within a few meters (10 feet) of what it aimed at while GPS will land within a 10 meter circle with the target in the middle. Most of the airstrikes are carried out by F-16s and Reaper UAVs. Back when there were no guided bombs you needed, on average, about 300 unguided bombs to take out targets that are now hit with one missile of guided bomb. The previous use of dumb (unguided) bombs also caused more casualties among nearby civilian troops. The Afghans learned how useful guided (as opposed to unguided) bomber were in 2001. The Islamic terrorists and drug gangs hate smart bombs, Afghan security forces and many civilians prefer them. Thus when the foreign troops left in 2014 what was missed most was the abundant American air support and seeming endless supply of weapons ready to be released.