Afghanistan: US air and drone strikes, 2015 to present
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US air and drone strikes in Afghanistan
US drones and jets have been bombing Afghanistan since late 2001 and are likely to continue beyond 2017.

The strikes in Afghanistan are under the ultimate command of US Air Force Central Command (Afcent), the Air Force component of the unified Central Command (Centcom). Centcom is in charge of the US’s wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

The Bureau started recording strikes in 2015, when 411 US air attacks hit Afghanistan – a fall of a third from 2014. This was the lowest number of strikes in a year in Afghanistan since 2006, though it was almost as many strikes recorded in 11 years of US drone operations in Pakistan.

The US has been targeting a variety of armed groups in Afghanistan this year, such as al Qaeda, the Haqqani Network, Islamic State’s Afghan franchise Islamic State – Khorasan, the Pakistan Taliban, and the Afghan Taliban.

These strikes have been conducted under two broad targeting policies: one is a counter-terrorism policy targeting al Qaeda, its allies and affiliates. Islamic State – Khorasan, its allies and affiliates, was added to this policy in January 2016. The second is a force protection policy. This allows the US to target and kill anyone threatening the US or Nato force in the country.

Through 2015, strikes against the Afghan Taliban were in the latter category. The US military has been ordered not to target the Afghan Taliban leadership in counter-terrorism strikes as a matter of policy to draw back from fighting the insurgency and put the Afghan army and police at the forefront of this battle. This is despite the President telling Congress in three consecutive letters that the US is in an armed conflict with the Taliban. The latest of these letters, written in December 2015, says “active hostilities… remain ongoing”.
The Data
There is data from two sources in this spreadsheet. The first, in the tabs below marked “Bureau Data”, is collected by the Bureau from information in open source material, including news reports, UN reports and NGO publications. Field investigations by the Bureau have also contributed to this dataset. It is primarily a strike-by-strike database including casualty data as well as the date and location of the strikes.

The second data source is the US Air Force, in tabs marked “USAF Data”. Each month the Air Force publishes aggregated summaries of air operations over Afghanistan. These Air Power Summaries do not contain any information about individual strikes, or any casualty figures. The US Air Force releases the summary in arrears – approximately two weeks after the end of the month. For example, data for January 2015 was released in mid-February 2015.

The Bureau’s data should not be considered a statistically significant sample of the US Air Force data. The two should not be conflated when calculating casualty or strike rates.

The Bureau's work is licensed under creative commons. You are free to reuse this data but we ask you to please cite the Bureau as the source, and link back to this dataset. It is possible to download this spreadsheet however converting it into an Excel format may cause problems with the summary tables and the graphs. This is because there are important differences between the coding of functions between Google sheets and Excel.
More information on how to use the relevant functions in Excel:
More on our Creative Commons license:
You can find more information on the strikes recorded in this database in our narrative timeline:
Contact the
The attacks here are listed in chronological order. This is a live database: the Bureau does not consider any record closed. Therefore casualty estimates for any strike could change when new, credible information comes to light that affects our understanding of a particular event.

Below are detailed notes explaining the coding, and column headings used in the data sheets marked as Bureau data in this spreadsheet:
Strike IDA six figure code identifying each strike. The code's sequence is chronological: the higher the number, the more recent the strike. It does not signify which strikes were added to the database most recently.
DateIn UK format: dd/mm/yyyy
Village/local areaThe most detailed location data available. Often it is a village, or a sub-division of a district, or a nearby population centre.
DistrictThe district where the strike hit.
ProvinceThe province where the strike hit.
Type of attackMost incidents recorded here are US strikes conducted by drones, jets, gunships or helicopters. Occasionally it has not been possible to dissaggregate casualties form an aerial attack and those from an accompanying ground operation.
Reported drone?Most strikes are reportedly carried out by drones. It is not clear if this term is being used as a catch-all term for airstrike by officials or journalists. US officials predominantly describe attacks as “precision strikes” and give not comment on the type of aircraft used.
Confirmed US?Not all US strikes have been confirmed by US sources. Other sources include Afghan or Pakistani officials. The Bureau will include a strike in its database when it is reported by a named or unnamed US official, named Afghan officials, named Pakistani officials, or anonymous sources from either country combined with one other kind of source, such as a local resident.
Only US sourced?Some strikes have only been reported to the Bureau by US officials in Afghanistan. Few of these strikes come with a casualty count and those casualty records that have been provided may be incomplete. Those of these strikes that are marked as killing or wounding zero people should be considered as having an unknown death toll; those with a casualty count should be considered a minimum value.
Counter-terrorism or Force Protection?Occasionally US officials will reveal when a strike is a counter-terrorism attack. More often they have said an operation was conducted to “counter a threat to the force,” which is presumed to mean a force protection strike.
Reported target groupA wide variety of armed groups are operating against the government in Afghanistan. Frequently reports of an air strike will specify which was the intended target, or will say the dead belonged to a particular group.
TimeThe time of the strike as is reported in open sources. Sometimes it is specific, such as when a US officer has provided an official report, and sometimes it is vague - as broad as "at night".
Reported target typeOccasionally reports will specify whether a building or vehicle was hit in the attack. When this happens, it is recorded here as a string.
Strike talliesSometimes multiple strikes will be reported by sources with a sum total casualty count that cannot be broken down by individual strikes. For example, an official may report that seven strikes hit a district in Paktika province killing 40 people. Sometimes sources will disagree on how many attacks hit, hence there being a minimum and maximum value for the total number of strikes reported in each row.
Casualty estimatesThe Bureau casualty estimates are divided into four sections: total people killed, total civilians killed, total children killed, and total injured. Each is expressed as a range. The minimum value is the lowest reported by the strike's sources, the maximum is the highest. Where there it is clear casualty estimates have been revised upwards or downwards, our range is adapted accordingly. However the source will remain as a citation for the strike in our overall database, for reference.
IndexA unique and sequential index key. The higher the value, the later the strike was added to the database, regardless of where it falls within the chronology of strikes. For use as a primary key.
Total casualty rateThe average number of people killed per strike in a year. Calculated by dividing the minimum number of total people killed in a year by the total number of US air strikes in that year.
Civilian casualty rateThe average number of civilians reported killed per strike in a year. Calculated by dividing the minimum number of civilians reported killed in a year by the total number of US air strikes in that year.
Below are detailed notes explaining the coding, and column headings used in the data sheets marked as USAF data in this spreadsheet:
Close air support (CAS) sortiesCAS is a specific military term for aerial missions that target enemy forces on the ground near friendly forces. These kinds of attacks can be pre-planned or carried out on an ad hoc basis under what is called dynamic targeting.
CAS with at least one weapon releaseThe closest analogue to the lay term “air strike”. The US Air Force does not count individual strikes, as there could be multiple missiles fired or bombs dropped on various targets during the same sortie, or mission. This can lead to confusion over terms. For example, on October 11 2015 US officials said 63 strikes hit an al Qaeda camp in Kandahar province. However, the US Air Force data for October showed only 35 CAS sorties with at least one weapon release. There are various US aircraft in Afghanistan that could be used for CAS, including armed drones, F-16 jets and AC-130 gunships. All can carry multiple weapons and are therefore capable of carrying out more than one strike in a single sortie.
ISRIntelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance – essential battlefield information gathered by a variety of aircraft. The key US ISR assets in Afghanistan are drones, the Predator and the new, more advanced Reaper. Both are armed and can conduct airstrikes. However the main advantage they bring to battlefield commanders and troops on the ground is persistent ISR. They can fly slowly for hours on end over the same area, hoovering up information with their video cameras, infrared cameras, and sophisticated radar systems.
AirliftMoving cargo around the country in fixed-wing or rotary aircraft.
Casualty EvacuationEmergency evacuation of a casualty from a combat area to a medical facility.
Saves“If someone is being transported and the Guardian Angels on board have to perform a life-saving or life-sustaining procedure during flight, that is a save,” a US Air Force spokesman told the Bureau.
Assist“An assist is when a person with a medical issue is simply transported from one location to another and the person needs no additional medical help in flight,” the spokesman said.
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