14:33 GMT13 April 2021
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    The Afghan Air Force for the first time conducted nighttime airstrikes on targets Sunday.

    It's a "step toward making the country less dependent on American airpower," the independent US military publication Stars & Stripes reported on Tuesday, citing officials.

    That bodes well for US President Donald Trump, who is reportedly planning to withdraw the US military from Afghanistan before he faces re-election in 2020.

    The United States' mission in Afghanistan was known as Operation Enduring Freedom from the US invasion in 2001 until 2014, when the mission was renamed Operation Freedom Sentinel and saw a drop in combat operations and a refocus on training, advising and equipping the Afghan military. 

    On Sunday, the Afghan Air Force's US-supplied A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft bombed a Taliban target in Uruzgan province, taking out a number of insurgents and destroying munitions stores, according to Jalaludin Ibrahimkail, a spokesman for the air force.

    "This is a very important step that we have taken, and we will try to increase nighttime air operations carried out solely by Afghans in the future," Ibrahimkhail said.

    The US and its allies in Afghanistan have been training Afghans to conduct nighttime operations on various aircraft for months, Stars & Stripes reported. Nighttime airstrikes are preferable to daytime operations because it is harder for insurgents to retaliate with anti-aircraft weapons in the dark.

    Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Ghafoor Ahmed Jawed told the outlet that the Afghan forces will start employing light attack helicopters for nighttime bombing operations.

    "We want to continue this. It is really important, because now we have a problem supporting our ground forces, and if we improve our capabilities, casualties will decrease," he said.

    For instance, Afghan security forces suffered their worst month of casualties ever in August, with over 500 soldiers slain, according to Defense Minister General Taq Shah.

    Through 2016, Washington had spent $68 billion on bolstering Afghanistan's armed forces, the Washington Post reported. To understand why, one need not look further than statements made to Congress in April 2015 by Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko. 

    "Every dollar we spend now on training, advising and assisting the Afghans," Sopko told lawmakers, "must be viewed as insurance coverage to protect our nearly trillion-dollar investment in Afghanistan since 2001."

    In other words, if Afghanistan's security forces fail in their battle against the Taliban, the United States' now 17-year-old project to install democracy in the country would be a total loss.

    "We appreciate anything that makes them more effective at preventing Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for terrorists," NATO's Resolute Support (the name of its mission in Afghanistan) said in a statement on the Afghan Air Force's first successful nighttime strikes.


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    Afghan Security Forces, War in Afghanistan, us troops in afghanistan, Afghan Air Forces, Afghanistan
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