Get the data: Drone wars

Get the data: A list of US air and drone strikes, Afghanistan 2017

An Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon approaches a KC-135 Stratotanker for aerial refueling to support an Operation Freedom’s Sentinel mission over Afghanistan, Dec. 21, 2016. The 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron is actively engaged in tactical refueling operations, which extend kinetic capabilities across Southwest Asia. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew B. Fredericks

A note on our data and methodology

US drones and jets have been bombing Afghanistan since late 2001 and the airstrikes look set to continue into the Trump administration.

For most of the past 15 years, US aircraft operated alongside allied air forces. However this changed on January 1 2015. From that point the US became the only air force known to be flying fast jets or armed drones in Afghanistan. A handful of European allies have kept some transport helicopters in the country to support the Nato Resolute Support Mission.

Besides the US, the Afghan Air Force (AAF) is the only other force carrying out air strikes in Afghanistan. As of June 1 2016 the AAF operated at least 41 strike-capable aircraft. This number is increasing as more helicopters and fixed-wing ground attack aircraft are delivered to the AAF and are sent to the frontline.

The number of AAF strikes is not publicly known however the UN has reported an increasing number of civilian casualties from the attacks. The UN counted 126 civilian casualties in 2015 – 46 were killed and 80 injured. In the UN’s six-month report in 2016 the number of civilian casualties had doubled compared with the same period the year before, with with 161 casualties in January to June – 57 killed and 104 injured.

Those incidents that are reported in Afghan and international media are recorded in this timeline, for reference, though not included in the running tallies in the tables below.

Find our 2015 data here.

Find our 2016 data here.

On January 1 2015 the international commitment in Afghanistan took on a new form. The US and Nato started their non-combat “Train, Advise, Assist” mission supporting the Afghan police and army. Alongside this, the US began a counter-terrorism mission hunting al Qaeda and its allies.

The events detailed below occurred in 2017. They have been reported by US, Afghan and Pakistani civil, military and intelligence officials, through credible media, academic and other sources, including the Bureau’s own field researchers and published investigations.

This is not an exhaustive list. The US Air Force publishes monthly summaries of its operations over Afghanistan, including how many strike missions it has flown and how many bombs and missiles have been released. This information is published one month late but still indicates a greater number of strikes than the Bureau’s tally. The US figures are summarised in the table below and can be downloaded from the US Air Force website.

For more on our methodology, see the notes page in our database of strikes accessible here. A more detailed analysis of the US Air Force’s figures are also maintained in this sheet.

The Bureau uses a C suffix on the six digit alphanumeric strike code when there are unresolved questions over the attribution of a strike, or its sourcing. They are not included in our casualty estimates.

In order to give some context to the strikes, brief summaries of events in Afghanistan and internationally have been included in the timeline. These might include noteworthy military and political events in Afghanistan or political developments in Washington or Islamabad, for example. Some of these summaries include a body count – they are not included in the Bureau’s casualty estimates and they do not have a six figure alphanumeric code.

This research is part of the Bureau’s covert drone war project. The Bureau has collected extensive data on US drone strikes and air strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.


Reported US strikes, Afghanistan 2017
Strikes recorded
by the Bureau
Total reported strikes: 2
Total reported killed: 19
Civilians reported killed: 0
Children reported killed: 0
Total reported injured: 10


The Air Force publishes its data online in an Air Power Summary – the monthly figures are posted in the second week of the following month. For example, data for January will be posted in the second week of February. Therefore, the figures in the table above and below are only ever accurate up to the end of the previous month.


US Air Force reported air operations, Afghanistan 2017
Total Close Air Support (CAS) sorties
with at least one weapon release
Total CAS sorties
Total weapons released


Monitoring the US drone and air strikes in Afghanistan: A new project for the Bureau

The current international missions in Afghanistan sprang into life on January 1 2015, with clear roots in the international military operations that came before.

The Nato-led operation, Resolute Support Mission (RSM), is a non-combat mission in the country to train, assist and advise the Afghan police and army – a role it inherited from Nato’s International Security Assistance Force (Isaf). As of the most recent public tally, in October 2016, there were 39 countries contributing soldiers to RSM, ranging from more than 860 Georgian troops to one from Luxembourg.

The US mission, Operation Freedom Sentinel (OFS) in part fulfils the same functions as RSM. Most are part of RSM’s training mission but a significant counter-terrorism element remains. This is largely a continuation of the 14 year long Operation Enduring Freedom mission, the banner US and allied forces first entered Afghanistan under back in October 2001 to hunt down al Qaeda.

After the US and its allies scattered the Taliban and al Qaeda in 2001, the UN sent in a peacekeeping force to secure the capital. This assistance force, Isaf, was meant to last six months to allow the government to find its feet and hold elections. In 2003 the UN decided to hand over control of Isaf to Nato. As the years went by, it became less about peacekeeping and more about fighting the Afghan Taliban insurgency.

Similarly, Operation Enduring Freedom changed from its initial special operations-focused hunt for terrorists. It too became increasingly focused on countering the Taliban insurgency.

The provinces of Afghanistan: US strikes have reportedly been focused in the south and east of the country. By UNAMA the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan


The US has considerable firepower at its disposal to support this mission. The Air Force operates F-16 strike, aircraft stationed at Bagram Air Base near Kabul, as well as Predator and Reaper drones based at Kandahar and Jalalabad. The US Army still has Apache attack helicopters in the country. The CIA still operates drones from Afghanistan and the US Air Force continues to fly AC-130 gunships, such as the aircraft that carried out the catastrophic October 3 2015 strike in Kunduz that hit a charity-run hospital.

The Bureau’s data by month for 2017

January 2017

January 2 2017
♦ 10 reported killed

According to Khaama Press, the “provincial police commandment” said a US drone strike killed at least ten members of Afghanistan’s branch of Islamic State.

The date of the strike was not mentioned in the reporting. The sourcing is also too vague to confirm this as a US strike as yet.

Type of strike: Possible US strike 
Haska Mena district, Nangarhar province
Khaama Press

January 2 2017
♦ 21 reported killed

Afghanistan’s Ministry of Interior reported 21 alleged Taliban members had been killed in multiple air strikes in Logar province.

Specific dates for the strikes were not given but the information was reported by Khaama Press on January 2.

It is not clear whether Afghan or US forces conducted the strikes.

Type of strike: Possible US strike
Location: Logar province
References: Khaama Press

January 10 2017

♦ 4 reported killed

Four people were killed in a US drone strike on a car in the evening of January 10, according to Zar Moeed Mukhlis, “administrative chief” in the town of Aziz Kala.

The four were said to be members of the Haqqani Network, two of them commanders in the terrorist syndicate. The commanders, Nazar Jan and Rohullah, were killed in the strike, Mukhlis said. They were “a bomb planter and in charge of the group’s weapons supply”, according to Pajhwok News though it was not clear which role was attributed to which of the men.

An unidentified local corroborated the strike hit a vehicle near Aziz Kala though did not have any information about casualties, Pajhwok reported.

Type of strike: US air or drone strike
Location: Aziz Kala town, Sabri district, Khost province
References: Pajhwok

Afghan Air Force strike
January 12 2017
♦ 12 reported killed

Afghan air strikes reportedly killed 12 alleged fighters including Mualvi Attiqullah, a Taliban commander, in Garamser district, Helmand province. Ayub Omar Omari, the district chief, told Pajhwok News that the strikes hit the Gimak and Kharki areas of the district. He attributed the strikes to the Afghan Air Force.

Type of strike: Afghan Air Force strikes
Location: Gimak and Kharki areas, Garamser district, Helmand province
References: Pajhwok

January 14 2017 
♦ 15 reported killed
♦ 10 reported injured

Several top Taliban leaders were reportedly killed in a US strike in Helmand province, the “provincial government media office” said in a statement.

It reported a total of 25 alleged fighters killed or wounded in the strike, adding that at least 15 had been killed, including some Taliban leaders “loyal to Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence”.

Pajhwok reproduced a list of the Taliban members believed to have been killed and their alleged titles published by what it described as the “governor’s house of Helmand province”.

Name Alleged Taliban position
Mullah Tahir Financial manager
Haji Nasir Recruitment head
Haji Khadam Military unit director
Haji Rohani Shadow district chief for Nehr-i-Siraj
Mullah Sadiq Agha Head of military unit for Kandahar province
Haji Khalid Deputy governor for Uruzgan province

Four vehicles, 18 PK heavy machine guns, three mortars, four SPG-9 rocket launchers and 25 AK-47 assaults rifles were reportedly destroyed in the attack.

Type of strike: US air or drone strike
Location: Musa Qala district, Helmand province
References: Khaama Press, Pajhwok

January 20 2017
♦ 4 reported killed

Four members of Afghanistan’s branch of Islamic State were killed in a US drone strike, according to unnamed local security officials. Two of the members were reportedly from Pakistan and the other two were from Tajikistan.

The strike was reported by Khaama Press on January 20, but it was not clear when it was conducted.

Type of strike: US air or drone strike
Location: Achin district, Nangarhar province
References: Khaama Press

An Air Force captain taxis an F-16 Fighting Falcon before a night mission at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Jan. 13, 2017. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Katherine Spessa
An F-16 taxis on Bagram airfield before a night mission (Staff Sgt. Katherine Spessa/USAF)

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