Since taking over the war effort, Gen. David Petraeus has turned the Air Force loose across Afghanistan, giving them free rein to launch an almost ridiculous level of air strikes. These strikes have continued to rise, and with them the number of civilians being killed in the NATO occupation.
In September NATO warplanes launched 700 separate attack missions, nearly a three-fold increase from the previous year. Even that looks to have been the tip of the iceberg, however, as October’s toll shows at least 1,000 separate attacks.
Air strikes had actually been falling during Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s tenure, as several embarrassing attacks killing scores of innocent civilians convinced the general that the strikes were doing more harm than good and ordered a huge number of restrictions on the use of strikes, keeping them far away from the civilian population.
The restrictions actually did slow the increase in the number of civilian killings, but officials complained it was doing damage to troop morale, and General Petraeus’ takeover has meant a paring down these rules. Exactly how many more strikes can possibly be launched on a monthly basis remains to be seen.