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.
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.
Reported US strikes, Afghanistan 2017
by the Bureau
Total reported strikes:
Total reported killed:
Civilians reported killed:
Children reported killed:
Total reported injured:
The Air Force publishes its data online in an Air Power Summary – the monthly figures are posted in the second week of the following month. For example, data for January will be posted in the second week of February. Therefore, the figures in the table above and below are only ever accurate up to the end of the previous month.
US Air Force reported air operations, Afghanistan 2017
Total Close Air Support (CAS) sorties
with at least one weapon release
Total CAS sorties
Total weapons released
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 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.
The US has considerable firepower at its disposal to support this mission. The Air Force operates F-16 strike, aircraft stationed at Bagram Air Base near Kabul, as well as Predator and Reaper drones based at Kandahar and Jalalabad. The US Army still has Apache attack helicopters in the country. The CIA still operates drones from Afghanistan and the US Air Force continues to fly AC-130 gunships, such as the aircraft that carried out the catastrophic October 3 2015 strike in Kunduz that hit a charity-run hospital.
The Bureau’s data by month for 2017
AFG301C January 2 2017
♦ 10 reported killed
According to Khaama Press, the “provincial police commandment” said a US drone strike killed at least ten members of Afghanistan’s branch of Islamic State.
The date of the strike was not mentioned in the reporting. The sourcing is also too vague to confirm this as a US strike as yet.
Type of strike: Possible US strike
Location: Haska Mena district, Nangarhar province
References: Khaama Press
AFG301Ci January 2 2017
♦ 21 reported killed
Afghanistan’s Ministry of Interior reported 21 alleged Taliban members had been killed in multiple air strikes in Logar province.
Specific dates for the strikes were not given but the information was reported by Khaama Press on January 2.
It is not clear whether Afghan or US forces conducted the strikes.
Type of strike: Possible US strike Location: Logar province References: Khaama Press
January 10 2017
♦ 4 reported killed
Four people were killed in a US drone strike on a car in the evening of January 10, according to Zar Moeed Mukhlis, “administrative chief” in the town of Aziz Kala.
The four were said to be members of the Haqqani Network, two of them commanders in the terrorist syndicate. The commanders, Nazar Jan and Rohullah, were killed in the strike, Mukhlis said. They were “a bomb planter and in charge of the group’s weapons supply”, according to Pajhwok News though it was not clear which role was attributed to which of the men.
An unidentified local corroborated the strike hit a vehicle near Aziz Kala though did not have any information about casualties, Pajhwok reported.
Type of strike: US air or drone strike Location: Aziz Kala town, Sabri district, Khost province References: Pajhwok
Afghan Air Force strike January 12 2017
♦ 12 reported killed
Afghan air strikes reportedly killed 12 alleged fighters including Mualvi Attiqullah, a Taliban commander, in Garamser district, Helmand province. Ayub Omar Omari, the district chief, told Pajhwok News that the strikes hit the Gimak and Kharki areas of the district. He attributed the strikes to the Afghan Air Force.
Type of strike: Afghan Air Force strikes Location: Gimak and Kharki areas, Garamser district, Helmand province References: Pajhwok
Several top Taliban leaders were reportedly killed in a US strike in Helmand province, the “provincial government media office” said in a statement.
It reported a total of 25 alleged fighters killed or wounded in the strike, adding that at least 15 had been killed, including some Taliban leaders “loyal to Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence”.
Pajhwok reproduced a list of the Taliban members believed to have been killed and their alleged titles published by what it described as the “governor’s house of Helmand province”.
Alleged Taliban position
Military unit director
Shadow district chief for Nehr-i-Siraj
Mullah Sadiq Agha
Head of military unit for Kandahar province
Deputy governor for Uruzgan province
Four vehicles, 18 PK heavy machine guns, three mortars, four SPG-9 rocket launchers and 25 AK-47 assaults rifles were reportedly destroyed in the attack.
Type of strike: US air or drone strike Location: Musa Qala district, Helmand province References: Khaama Press, Pajhwok
AFG304 January 20 2017
♦ 4- 6 reported killed
A vaguely sourced news report said that four members of Afghanistan’s branch of Islamic State were killed in a US drone strike. Two of the members were reportedly from Pakistan and the other two were from Tajikistan.
The strike was later confirmed by Attaullah Khogyani. He reported that the strike hit Bandr Khor area of Achin district in Nangarhar province. In a different report, Khogyani said that the strike had killed six members of the group, four of which were not from Afghanistan.
Type of strike: US air or drone strike Location: Bandr Khor area, Achin district, Nangarhar province References: Khaama Press, TOLO News, Pajhwok
AFG304C January 20 2017
♦ 3 reported killed
The “provincial police commandment” said a US air strike killed three members of Afghanistan’s branch of Islamic State. It hit late in the afternoon.
The sourcing is too vague to confirm the strike and add it to the database as yet.
Type of strike: Possible US strike Location: Jawargar area, Achin district, Nangarhar province References: Khaama Press
Afghan Air Force strike January 22 2017
♦ 21 reported killed
♦ 7 reported injured
An Afghan Air Force strike killed 21 members of Afghanistan’s branch of Islamic State in Zabul province, according to the “provincial police commandment”. A further seven were injured, including an alleged commander of the group.
Type of strike: Afghan Air Force strike Location: Zabul province References: Khaama Press
Afghan Air Force strike January 23 2017 ♦ 31 reported killed ♦ 19 reported wounded
Gul Islam Seyal, the governor’s spokesman for Zabul province, said that airstrikes killed 31 alleged Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters. The strikes were conducted as part of the Afghan operation known as “Shafaq-2”.
Type of strike: Afghan Air Force strike Location: Khak-i-Afghan district, Zabul province References: Pajhwok
Afghan Air Force strike January 24 2017 ♦ 14 reported wounded
An air strike conducted by Afghan forces came to light when an investigation was launched into reports of civilian injuries. The Afghan National Army has rejected the claims.
However the Uruzgan Governor Mohammad Nazir Kharotai said he visited the clinic treating the victims. He reportedly received a call from the presidential palace ordering an investigation and said a delegation would be appointed.
It is not clear when the strike took place but it was within a few days of the investigation being launched which was reported on January 24.
Type of strike: Afghan Air Force strike Location: Akhtar village, Chora district, Uruzgan province References: Pajhwok
AFG305 January 27 2017 ♦ 7 reported killed
A drone attack killed two members of Afghanistan’s branch of Islamic State and five members of Lashkar e Islam, a Pakistani terrorist group, according to Hazrat Hussain Mashriqiwal, a Nangarhar police spokesperson.
It targeted the positions of the fighters in Bandar area in Achin district on the night of January 27.
Type of strike: US air or drone strike Location: Bandar area, Achin district, Nangarhar province Reference: Pajhwok
AFG306 January 28 2017 ♦ 7 reported killed
Xinhua reported Shir Aqa Faqiri, an army spokesperson, saying that seven alleged members of Afghanistan’s branch of Islamic State had been killed in a drone strike, including “two judges of the terrorist group”.
Type of strike: US air or drone strike Location: Nangarhar province References: Xinhua
AFG307 January 31 2017
♦ Unknown reported killed
A US military spokesman told VOA on January 31 that approximately ten air strikes had been carried out in the past 24 hours in and around Sangin.
The strikes were conducted to assist Afghan troops holding off a Taliban assault on Sangin, a key district centre in Helmand province.
“These strikes targeted Taliban fighting positions. We will continue to aggressively support our Afghan partners as they defend Sangin from the Taliban,” the spokesman said in a written statement given to VOA.
Taliban attack on Sangin district cent in Helmand: US carried out airstrikes overnight, afghan reinforcements on way. CE Abdullah in Helmand
Type of strike: Air or drone strikes Location: Sangin, Helmand province References: VOA
AFG308 January 31 2017
♦ Unknown reported killed
The US conducted 36 strikes in Afghanistan in January, according to figures given to the Bureau by a US spokesperson.
The Bureau recorded 15 strikes for the month. The remaining 21 strikes have been added to the Bureau’s database and included in the strike tally.
The data, released on February 2, did not include casualty estimates but was broken down into types of strikes. The spokesperson said that 20 strikes were conducted under counter-terrorism authorities and 15 strikes were conducted under rules passed in June giving US troops greater leeway to target the Taliban.
One strike was conducted using force protection rules that allow the US to take out threats to international forces as well as Afghan troops who are “in extremis”.
Type of strike: US air or drone strikes Location: Unknown References: US Forces – Afghanistan via email
AFG309 February 1 2017 ♦ 2-12 reported killed
A senior leader of Afghanistan’s branch of Islamic State was killed in a morning strike, according to Ataullah Khogyani, the Nangarhar governor’s spokesman. Local officials said the strike was conducted by a drone and carried out by “foreign forces”. They identified the leader as Shahid Omar. Khogyani said Omar was in command of at least 40 members of the group.
A later news report said that Qari Munib, described as a “top leader” of Afghanistan’s branch of Islamic State, was one of 12 militants killed in Achin, which included Omar. They had been killed in a series of airstrikes, it said. It was not clear if they had all been killed in strikes conducted by US forces.
Munib’s death was however later confirmed by the US, who said he “was killed during a larger Afghan and U.S. counterterrorism operation focused on … eastern Afghanistan” in a Pentagon statement issued on February 8 and reported by VOA. The Pentagon said Munib played a “key role” in two suicide attacks on the capital which took the lives of a combined total of nearly 100 people. One of the attacks hit Nepalese security guards at the Canadian Embassy in June 2016 while the second targeted a Hazara protest march in July. The Afghan government said Munib “was involved in large-scale atrocities against our people in Nangarhar’s Achin district and several other areas”, according to VOA.
An archived ISAF press release shows that Qari Munib, then described as a Taliban leader, was reported killed by an “Afghan and coalition security force” in November 2012.
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.
A Bureau reporter spoke to various people to find out more details on the strike. A tribal elder who claimed to know those hit in the strike said they were all from Sabarai district and affiliated to Haqqani Network. The district governor for Sabarai suggested they were high ranking Taliban but did not know exactly what group they belonged to. Ghairt told our reporter that four commanders in Haqqani Network were killed. He rejected the claims Mullah Rasool or people connected to him were killed in the strike.
At least 21 members of Afghanistan’s branch of Islamic State were killed and six others wounded in US drone strikes in Haska Mina and Achin district, according to Major Sher Aqa Faqeri, a spokesperson for 201st Selab Military Corps.
The strikes were reported alongside an overnight clash and it was not clear if the strikes took place at the same time.
Type of strike: US air or drone strikes Location: Haska Mina and Achin district, Nangarhar province References: Kuwait News Agency, Pajhwok
AFG311C February 4 2017
♦ 1 reported killed
A member of Afghanistan’s branch of Islamic State was killed in a drone strike conducted “by the foreign forces”, according to the provincial police commandment. The sourcing is too vague to record this as a confirmed US strike as yet. A date for the strike was also not given but it was reported on February 4.
Type of strike: Possible US strike Location: Haska Mena, Nangarhar province References: Khaama Press
AFG311Ci February 6 2017
♦ 1 reported killed
A Taliban member was killed in an air strike, according to the provincial police commandment, but it was not clear if the Afghan Air Force or US forces conducted the strike.
Type of strike: Possible US strike Location: Behmaro area, Chaparhar district, Nangarhar province References: Khaama Press
A series of US air strikes on February 6 killed at least two members of Afghanistan’s branch of Islamic State and injured three others, according to the “provincial police commandment”. The sourcing is too vague to confirm the strike and add it to the strike tally as yet.
Type of strike: Possible US strike Location: Charzoi and Nari Obo areas, Haska Mena district, Nangarhar province. References: Khaama Press
Afghan Air Force strike February 6 2017 ♦ 11 reported killed ♦ 12 reported injured
Gul Islam Siyal, the governor of Zabul province’s spokesperson, said that Afghan forces hit “militant hideouts” in a strike in the night.
Type of strike: Afghan Air Force strike Location: Khak-e-Afghan, Zabul province References: Pajhwok
February 6 2017 ♦ 6 reported killed
Six Taliban members were killed in US air strike, according to the Helmand government media office. A statement reportedly released by the media office said a local Taliban leader, identified as Mawlavi Najeeb or “Madad”, was among the dead.
Type of strike: US air or drone strike Location: Kharko area, Garamser district, Helmand province References: Khaama Press
Two members of Afghanistan’s branch of Islamic State were killed and three others wounded in a drone strike, according to Attaullah Khogyani, the Nangarhar governor’s spokesperson.
The strike was reported on February 8 but Khogyani made the comments on February 7, according to Khaama Press. The reporting says the strike hit “last night” which is most likely referring to the night before the comments were made.
Type of strike: US air or drone strike Location: Char Wazi area, Haska Mena district, Nangarhar province References: Pajhwok
Two senior commanders of Afghanistan’s branch of Islamic State were killed in “NATO drone strikes”, according to Mohammad Hussain Mashraqiwal, a spokesperson for the Nangarhar province police chief. He identified the commanders as Mohammed Omar Sadiq and Omar Farooq.
The strikes reportedly killed a further nine alleged militants and injured six others. Khaama Press reported that the two commanders were killed in Pekhar Khor area of Achin district, while the others were killed in Nari Oba area of Haska Mina district but the sourcing was vague.
A US military spokesperson confirmed to AP that forces had conducted counter-terrorism strikes in Nangarhar province on February 8 but did not provide any additional details.
Type of strike: US air or drone strike Location: Pekhar Khor area, Achin district and Nari Oba area, Haska Mina district, Nangarhar province. References: AP, Khaama Press
February 9-10 2017 ♦ 18–68 reported killed ♦ 18civilians reported killed, including an unknown number of children ♦ 0-20 reported injured
Strikes conducted on February 9 and 10 by “International Military Forces” in Sangin district of Helmand province killed at least 18 civilians, nearly all women and children, an initial enquiry by the UN Mission in Afghanistan found. UNAMA published a statement on its findings on February 12.
The Bureau was first alerted to reports of civilian casualties as a result of US strikes by a Resolute Support tweet acknowledging the allegations. However Captain William Salvin told the Bureau on February 10 that Resolute Support had “no evidence” that civilians were killed in the strikes, rather just Taliban claims, adding: “We do not believe that there were any civilians killed or wounded as a result of our strikes.”
Captain Salvin said the claims would be investigated. The strikes, he said, were conducted to support and defend Afghan forces. Resolute Support communications deputy chief of staff Brigadier General Charles Cleveland confirmed that “a formal review to determine the credibility of the claims” had been opened, with the investigation team involving Nato officers outside the American command to ensure impartiality. He also said the US had conducted approximately 30 air strikes in Sangin last week, a sign of the intensity of the fighting in the area.
Reports differed on casualty figures. A Taliban propaganda site said that 30 civilians had been “hurt” in the attack, 25 of which were killed. Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported tribal elders saying that at least 19 civilians were killed and 20 others injured, with one tribal elder claiming US strikes hit a house in Chinari village, killing ten members of the family including women and children. Karim Atal, the Helmand provincial council chairman, visited a hospital treating the wounded and said that there were both civilian and insurgent casualties. He said the attacks hit civilian homes, with one family losing nine members and another losing five. A resident of Sangin told Reuters that his brother’s house had been hit in the strike, killing 11 people. Another resident, Haji Ahmand, told the Guardian that his brother’s house was also hit, with the attack taking place at about 2am.
However, Helmand governor Hayatullah Hayat rejected reports of civilian casualties, claiming over 50 insurgents were killed. The News Agency of Nigeria quoted Mohammad Zwak, described as the spokesperson for the provincial governor, denying the civilian casualty allegations.
When questioned about the strikes in Sangin, Brig Gen Charles H Cleveland said the US conducted approximately 30 “air-to-ground” attacks in Sangin district last week. It is not clear how many of these were part of the attack that killed 18 civilians. The remaining 28 strikes not recorded by the Bureau have been added into the database in a single entry under February 11, the date the New York Times reported Cleveland’s comments.
Type of strike: US air or drone strikes Location: Sangin district, Helmand province References: New York Times
AFG316C February 11 2017 ♦ 5 reported killed
A senior Taliban leader was killed with four of his fighters in Paktika, according to the provincial government media office. A statement from the office identified the leader as Pach, also known as Faryadi, and described him as the shadow district chief of Barmal.
Unnamed local government officials said the strike was conducted by “foreign forces” but the sourcing is too vague to confirm this as a US strike as yet.
Type of strike: Possible US strike Location: Mangarti area, Barmal district, Paktika province References: Khaama Press
AFG316Ci February 14 2017
♦ 20 reported killed
Dost Mohammad Nayab, the Uruzgan governor’s spokesperson, said that several airstrikes hit the province, adding that the strikes were conducted by both Afghan forces and the “foreign”. TOLO News reported an “Afghan and foreign forces joint airstrike”.
It is not clear whether to attribute the strikes to Afghan or US forces. A date for the strikes was also not given but they were reported on February 14.
Local officials said the strikes hit in the vicinity of Tarin Kot.
Type of strike: Possible US strike Location: Tarin Kot, Uruzgan province References: Khama Press, TOLO News
Afghan Air Force strike February 14 2017
♦ Unknown reported killed
A “top” leader of Haqqani Network was killed in an airstrike conducted by Afghan forces, according to an Afghan intelligence statement reported by Khaama Press. The leader was identified by the National Directorate of Security as Khan Badshah.
The statement said Badshah was killed with other senior leaders, adding that his deputy also died in the strike.
Type of strike: AAF strike Location: South East Afghanistan References: Khaama Press
The Obama administration says it killed one civilian and 431-441 combatants in counterterrorism strikes last year – contrasting slightly with the Bureau’s estimate of four to six civilians and 358-501 combatants.
Obama embraced the US drone programme, overseeing more strikes in his first year than Bush carried out during his entire presidency. The use of drones aligned with Obama’s ambition to keep up the war against al Qaeda while extricating the US military from intractable ground wars, but the targeted killing programme has drawn much criticism.