The US-led coalition fighting ISIS in Iraq and Afghanistan dropped 5,075 bombs during close-air-support, escort, or interdiction operations in August, according to US Air Forces Central Command data.
The August total was the highest of any month during the three-year campaign against the terrorist group.
The previous monthly high was 4,848 in June. Each of first eight months of 2017 has exceeded the amount of bombs dropped in any other month of the campaign.
The number of weapons released through the first eight months of 2017 is 32,801, surpassing the 30,743 dropped all last year, which was the previous annual high for the campaign.
The 13,109 sorties so far this year is on pace to fall short of the total in 2016 and 2015 — both of which exceeded 21,100. The 8,249 sorties with at least one weapon deployed so far this year are set to top last year’s 11,825, however.
Both Iraq and Syria have seen intense urban fighting this year, which often requires more active air support.
Not all aircraft active over Iraq and Syria are under Air Forces Central Command’s control, so the figures likely understate the total number of weapons deployed.
Defence Secretary Jim Mattis also intervened to request more money for bombs in response to concerns about expenditures in the US Central Command area of operations, which includes the Middle East.
Mattis asked for about $US3.5 billion more for “preferred munitions,” including 7,664 Hellfire missiles and 34,529 Joint Direct Attack Munitions.
During his campaign, President Donald Trump promised to “bomb the hell out of ISIS,” and he appears to have keep that pledge.
Bombing during Operation Inherent Resolve against ISIS in Iraq and Syria — the recent stages of which US commanders have referred to as an “annihilation campaign” — has reached “unprecedented levels” under Trump, according to Micah Zenko and Jennifer Wilson of the Council on Foreign Relations, and the increase has extended to other areas, like Yemen and Somalia, as well.
The intensified bombing appears to have yielded a higher civilian death toll. There were at least 2,300 civilians killed by coalition strikes during the Obama administration, and between Trump’s January 20 inauguration and mid-July, there had been over 2,200 civilian casualties, according to monitoring group Airwars.
Other estimates put the number of civilian deaths much higher, and there is similar uncertainty about the number of ISIS fighters who have been killed. Coalition officials have made several estimates about the total slain, despite doubts about the utility and reliability of body counts.
Army Gen. Raymond Thomas, head of US Special Operations Command, said in July that “conservative estimates” put the number of ISIS dead between 60,000 and 70,000, echoing an statement he made in February.
The Pentagon said in summer 2016 that there were 15,000 to 20,000 ISIS militants left in Iraq and Syria, and US officials said in December that 50,000 of the terrorist group’s fighters had been killed — twice as many as the UK defence minister claimed had been killed that same month.