WASHINGTON, March 16 (Xinhuanet) -- The U.S. military has increased air strikes in Iraq and Afghanistan, prompted by persistent insurgencies in the two countries, a newspaper reported on Thursday, when the American military announced the same day it launched its biggest air offensive in Iraq since the 2003 invasion.
In Afghanistan, the military doubled the number of air strikes in 2005 from 2004, from 86 to 157, and in Iraq, air strikes increased 7 percent from 285 to 306, with a surge before the December national elections, the USA Today reported, citing figures from the U.S. Central Command.
Figures for the first two months of this year showed the year-to-year trend continued upward in both countries, the report said.
Besides air strikes, the U.S. military also relied heavily on aircraft to move personnel and supplies, as an alternative to dangerous ground convoys. Short-haul flights carried 953,000 troops and support personnel last year, an increase of 36 percent from 2004.
That is "an admission that U.S. and coalition ground forces, three years into the war, can't make movement on the ground safe," Andrew Bacevich, a professor of international relations at Boston University, told the newspaper.
Near-total control of the skies had made air power and transport readily available for the fighting forces. Warplanes provided almost constant cover, with nearly 17,000 sorties over Iraq last year and 7,400 over Afghanistan, according to the report.
Air power would stay strong in Iraq even if the Pentagon proceeded with plans to reduce ground forces, Air Force Secretary Michael Wynn was quoted as saying. Enditem