USA Today: Airstrikes in Afghanistan increase 31%
Air missions to back U.S. troops on the ground have increased by 31% in Afghanistan this year, as fighting in the country spreads.
The growing reliance on air power raises the risk of injuring civilians and their property and reflects a shortage of ground forces needed to protect civilians and root out insurgents, ground commanders and military experts say.
“If we got more boots on the ground, we would not have to rely as much on” airstrikes, said Army Brig. Gen. Michael Tucker, deputy commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Ground commanders in Afghanistan have asked for an additional three combat brigades and an array of support forces, which could amount to about 20,000 more troops.
The air missions, called close air support, are airstrikes requested by ground forces engaged with the enemy.
This report makes it sound like the primary job of CAS is to help troops when there aren’t enough of them. CAS certainly performs that duty, of course, but it’s hardly the only time, or even the primary time, that it’s employed.
CAS will be employed heavily whenever possible wherever US troops are engaged. If we boosted troop numbers in Afghanistan, they’d be in combat more often and CAS missions would be even more numerous. Any slight reductions due to more plentiful troops would be more than offset by more engagements.
(This would be the best course of action, in Murdoc’s humble opinion.)
The higher CAS numbers reflect more combat due to a more-active enemy and more offensive missions by US and allied troops. This is what we saw in Iraq when the “surge” troops began arriving and the offensive-oriented and active patrol operations picked back up.
I couldn’t quickly find a list of CAS missions in Iraq by month to support my claim, but here are two stories from the summer of 2007 noting the increase in Air Force combat missions in Iraq.
The timing coincides with the “surge” swinging into full gear. More combat = more CAS.
Sure, we could use more troops in Afghanistan. But the elevated CAS numbers will go up if and when they arrive, not down.