“Drones fired more weapons than conventional warplanes for the first time in Afghanistan”

Drones fired more weapons than conventional warplanes for the first time in Afghanistan last year and the ratio is rising, previously unreported U.S. Air Force data show, underlining how reliant the military has become on unmanned aircraft. The trend may give clues to the U.S. military’s strategy as it considers withdrawing more troops from the country, while at the same time shoring up local forces who have struggled to stem a worsening Taliban insurgency. U.S. President Barack Obama said in 2013 that the Afghan drawdown after 2014 and progress against al Qaeda would “reduce the need for unmanned strikes”, amid concerns from human rights groups and some foreign governments over civilian casualties. On one level, that has played out; the number of missiles and bombs dropped by drones in Afghanistan actually fell last year, largely because the U.S.-led NATO mission ceased combat operations at the end of 2014 and is now a fraction of the size. Yet as the force has shrunk, it has leant on unmanned aircraft more than ever, the Air Force data reveal, with drone strikes accounting for at least 61 percent of weapons deployed in the first quarter of this year.

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