US likely to send thousands of more troops to Afghanistan war
ABOARD AIR FORCE TWO: The war in Afghanistan may be entering its 17th year, but screams of military jet engines in the twinkling skies above Bagram Airfield show no sign of quieting.
This city-scale military base just north of Kabul has — like similar facilities in Kandahar and Jalalabad — become central to Donald Trump's promise to succeed where his predecessors failed, and end the Afghan war on favourable terms.
Trump concluded a months-long strategy review in August.
During that soul searching, the White House came to believe that the Obama administration underutilized America's total aerial superiority. The skies, they believe, could hold one key to unlocking the conflict.
Trump will likely send a few thousand more troops to the country — a development sure to grab the headlines — but the days of having 100,000 US military personnel in the country are over.
The ground war is likely to fall more and more to Afghan government forces, and early political efforts will be trained, in part, on getting Pakistan to stop providing safe havens for extremists across the border.
But the first tangible moves have been a significant increase in the tempo and intensity of airstrikes, an effort to take the war to the Taliban.
The US, which is the only foreign force in Afghanistan carrying out airstrikes, targeted the Taliban and Daesh extremists with 751 bombs and missiles in September, the month after the strategy review.
That was up 50 percent from August and the highest since October 2010, according to US Air Force data.
US Air Force personnel on the ground in Afghanistan report a significant shift in how airpower is being used.
Before, jets patrolled for up to four hours waiting to provide air support to ground forces. But they often returned to Bagram without having fired a shot in anger.