23:44 GMT24 September 2020
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    The United States Air Force announced Thursday that its final squadrons of B-52 Stratofortresses have completed their operations against Daesh in the Middle East and the Taliban in Afghanistan, and are back home at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota.

    The bombers used nearly 12,000 weapons on the extremist groups in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, according to an April 12 statement from the Air Force. The B-52 is commonly referred to as "BUFF," or "big ugly fat fellow," and has been in service for 63 years. For the past two, it's been the main bomber of the US Central Command.

    "In every war that America finds itself in," Lt. Col. Paul Goossen, commander of the 69th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, said, "it keeps being reinvented and it keeps showing its usefulness and its relevance."

    The B-52 broke a number of records during its past two years of operations. The 23rd Bomb Squadron ran 400 consecutive missions without any maintenance delays, which broke the previous record set during Operation Linebacker II, part of the US war on Vietnam.

    During Operation Linebacker II, also called "the Christmas Bombings," the US dropped 20,000 tons of explosives from 129 B-52 Stratofortresses over Hanoi, the capital of the communist government in north Vietnam. More than 1,000 Vietnamese were killed; in just one night, more 2,000 homes around a busy shopping street were destroyed, killing 280 people and injuring just as many.

    Later, the B-52 surpassed the B-1 Lancer's record of 761 consecutive missions without any cancellations from maintenance by 73, upping the record to 834.

    The B-52's use in operations over Raqqa has fallen under scrutiny: US-led coalition forces are believed to have killed more than 1,000 civilians there during their operation with Kurdish partners to wrest the city from Daesh. The anti-government, anti-Daesh activist group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently tweeted videos of the dropping of white phosphorus over the city, but mainstream media reports of the June 2017 alleged chemical attack don't identify an aircraft. Another group with members in Raqqa, Civil Resistance Against Extremism, claimed that US B-52s dropped the white phosphorus.

    The B-52 was used extensively in the coalition's Mosul campaign, in which white phosphorus was also reportedly used in June 2017. According to an AP report, between 9,000 and 11,000 civilians were killed, of which at least 3,200 were killed by coalition forces or their Iraqi partners.

    In Afghanistan, B-52 bombs literally resculpted the country. A US Air Forces Central Command spokesman told The Drive that the BUFF was dropping 50-pound ‘dumb bombs' on mountain passes and cover areas, referring to them as "terrain denial strikes."

    While the US Air Force says the B-52 has wrapped up operations against extremists in the regions, the respective groups' offensives continue. Over the weekend, four attacks believed to be by the Taliban rocked Afghanistan, killing 24 members of Afghan security forces and resulting in the destruction of two schools. 

    Meanwhile, in Syria, Daesh has launched at least two offensives since the April 13 American bombardment, in Yarmuk, a suburb in the southern Damascus region, killing 10 members of Hay'at Tahrir Al-Sham, or al-Qaeda in Syria, which controls the town. Daesh reportedly went on the offensive there less than an hour after US President Donald Trump began targeting the government.

    In the oil rich region of Deir ez-Zor, Syria Daesh fighters killed over a dozen members of the Syrian Army before the SAA repelled the attack, just days after the US strikes, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.


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