The U.S. military has expanded its renewed air war in Afghanistan, striking targets in northeastern Afghanistan affiliated with the Taliban and another small militant group that is known for its roots in China, U.S. military officials said Tuesday.
Afghanistan "has become CENTCOM's main effort thanks to the recent successes in Iraq and Syria", Hecker said.
The report further adds that during these strikes, a U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress dropped 24 precision guided munitions on Taliban fighting positions, setting a record of the most guided munitions ever dropped from a B-52. "This has allowed CENTCOM to shift more assets our way, which will significantly improve our ability to assist the Afghans".
The US military also said that over the past year, US precision strikes and the efforts of the Afghan Air Force and Afghan Special Security Forces have prevented Taliban fighters from capturing Kunduz City.
Hecker said the "weight and effort" of the US intelligence community will be shifted to Afghanistan within the next month.
A leading U.S. military commander says the latest airstrikes are "just one part of the effort in Afghanistan, but it's a very intimidating one" against the Taliban.
The general said that, compared with a year ago, the United States had 50 percent more MQ-9 Reaper drones providing intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance in Afghanistan.
He said the US also has added A-10 attack planes and will be adding combat search-and-rescue aircraft.
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Over the past 96 hours, US forces conducted air operations to strike Taliban training facilities in Badakhshan province, preventing the planning and rehearsal of terrorist acts near the border with China and Tajikistan. The Afghans are now conducting more strike missions than the Americans, he said. "Three A-29 pilots are now trained to drop laser-guided munitions".
"We never take anything off the table", Hecker added.
Hecker acknowledged that air power alone is unlikely to do the trick. "But it is another pressure point that we can put on them".
Army Gen. John Nicholson, the senior USA military commander in Afghanistan, said in the release that there will be no haven in Afghanistan for any terrorist group and that the Taliban has "nowhere to hide".
"This growth has already started but is going to continue".
In November, the Watson Institute of global and Public Affairs at Brown University said in a study that the United States had spent $5.6 trillion on military conflicts in the Middle Eastern region since the 9/11 terror attacks with $877.4 billion of them spent on the operations in Afghanistan, including the Coalition Support Funds for Pakistan.
Gresback said that in addition to the Taliban, the US -led military coalition in Afghanistan has targeted the East Turkestan Islamic Movement in the operation.