Trump seems to be delivering on his campaign promise to ‘bomb the hell out of ISIS’

President Donald Trump promised in a November 2015 press conference to “bomb the hell out of ISIS,” offering a saltier version of the pledge at a rally.

The first two months of his term appear to show that he has followed through on that promise.

Statistics released by the Air Forces Central Command indicate that the US and its partners in Operation Inherent Resolve, targeting ISIS in Iraq and Syria, dropped more weapons in March than in any other month since the operation began in August 2014.

Coalition aircraft dropped 3,878 weapons in March, a slight increase over the 3,440 dropped in February and nearly twice as many as the 2,052 dropped in March last year.

Each month so far this year has seen more weapons dropped than any other month during the campaign.

Through March, coalition forces have dropped 10,918 weapons, nearly 60% more than were dropped in the first three months of 2016, putting 2017 on pace for 43,672 weapons deployed, which would be over 40% more than the 2016 total.

The number of sorties with at least one weapon released has also increased, from 2,781 through March last year to 3,187 so far this year.

As noted by Air Force Times, while the number of weapons dropped is up, the number of close air support, escort, and interdiction sorties are down, from 6,080 at this point last year to 4,741 so far this year.

Air Forces Central Command figures likely understate the total number of weapons deployed in its area of operations, as not all aircraft operating in that area are under its control. Attack helicopters and US Army-operated drones, for example, are not included in the data, according to Air Force Times.

While Air Forces Central Command could not specify what caused the increase in weapons deployed in March, it told Air Force Times in February that Iraqi and partner forces’ efforts to recapture Mosul and operations against Raqqa in Syria — both of which coalition aircraft are supporting — were responsible for part of that month’s high total.

In Iraq, efforts to recapture Mosul, ISIS’ last urban stronghold in the country, have been going on since mid-October, and the spike in weapons deployed against ISIS in and around the city may have been in part driven by the operational tempo of that campaign, rather than totally by Trump’s directives.

US Air Forces Operation Inherent Resolve weapons bombings strikes Iraq Syria

Trump has also presided over a spike in the number of civilian deaths.

According to UK-based monitoring group Airwars, March saw the highest number of civilian deaths from coalition airstrikes since Operation Inherent Resolve began: 1,755.

Of the three categories of certainty provided by Airwars — fair, weak, and contested — the vast majority, 1,029, of March’s civilian deaths were in the “contested” category.

But even just the number of deaths in the “fair” category, 478, was the most since Operation Inherent Resolve began.

About 750,000 civilians remained in west Mosul when operations against ISIS there began on February 19, and while hundreds of thousands have fled the city since then, a majority are still hunkered down there, as close-quarters fighting between ISIS militants and Iraqi forces swirls around them.

ISIS has deliberately targeted civilians in the city with artillery and gunfire, but bombs and artillery fire by the coalition and its Iraqi partners are believed to have killed civilians as well.

A US-led strike on an ISIS-held part of Mosul in late March is believed to have been one of the most devastating US strikes on civilians since the first Gulf War, with a body count thought to be between 130 and 230.

Last week, US forces dropped the 21,000-pound GBU-43/A Massive Ordnance Air Blast weapon, known as the “Mother of all Bombs” or “MOAB,” on an ISIS outpost in northeast Afghanistan.

The strike was met with criticism at home and abroad, but Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, touted it as “another promise kept.”

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