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Afghan Pilots Drop Laser-Guided Bombs for First Time (PHOTOS)

© Flickr / US Air ForceAn A-29 Super Tucano flies over Afghanistan.
An A-29 Super Tucano flies over Afghanistan. - Sputnik International
The US effort to step up the fight against the Taliban and other so-called terrorist groups in Afghanistan has now seen a new first: a laser-guided bomb dropped from an Afghan fighter plane.

The increased US war effort in Afghanistan, first announced during US President Donald Trump's strategy speech concerning South Asia last August, has led to higher US troop levels in Afghanistan, purchases of A-29 Super Tucano aircraft for the Afghan Air Force, and F-22 Raptor bombing raids on suspected Taliban narcotics facilities.

The latest development includes arming Afghan Super Tucano pilots with GBU-58 laser-guided bombs weighing 250 pounds, a spokesman for NATO's Resolute Support mission told the Air Force Times Sunday. Speaking about exercises that took place earlier in January, Maj. Nicholas Plante stated "this was the first time [Afghan] pilots employed guided live bombs utilizing the on-board Forward Looking Infrared System."

​Afghan pilots completed the first use of the GBU-58s alongside NATO advisors piloting the Super Tucanos, according to the spokesman, but moving forward "all Afghan combat sorties" will be carried out independently of NATO advisers.

Super Tucanos are armed with.50 caliber machine guns, 2.75-inch rockets, and 250- or 500-pound bombs, according to the Pentagon.

Last week, a squadron of US Air Force A-10 Warthogs was deployed to Afghanistan. "Under the authorities granted in [Trump's] South Asia Policy, precision strikes with A-10s will hit the Taliban where they are most vulnerable: their revenue streams and profits from developing and selling illegal narcotics," the US military said.

A-10 Thunderbolt - Sputnik International
A-10 Warthogs Deploy to Afghanistan to Strike Taliban Drug Facilities

Nevertheless, some analysts are skeptical about whether more military support will bring peace to the war-torn nation. More troops can only fuel the 17-year war, Afghan political analyst Mohammad Hashemite Haikalzadah told Sputnik News, adding that only Afghan leaders can bring about solutions for Afghanistan in the conflict between the central government in Kabul and Taliban leaders.

"Equipping and training Afghan troops by the US, in order to counter terrorism, will not be effective until those in power change their policies," the analyst opined.

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