The US Dropped Bombs Every Three Hours in 2016

Few people would claim that 2016 was a particularly peaceful year for the world. Being the globe’s foremost military power, the United States was a major player in a number of conflicts.

The United States military was so active, in fact, that public data recently analyzed by the Council on Foreign Relations found that over the past year 26,171 airstrikes were conducted. Compared to 2015, just over 3,000 more bombings were carried out in 2016.

Doing the math shows that in 2016, on average, the U.S. military conducted an airstrike every three hours.

It is worth pointing out that the Department of Defense data does not necessarily tally every bomb dropped, instead tracking strikes which can often encompass a large number of bombings. What’s more, the U.S. does not always disclose military operations to the public. Considering these two factors, it could be argued that bombing every three hours may be a rather conservative number.

Though the American media and public last year focused primarily on the U.S.’ role in fighting the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq – where, indeed, the majority of 2016 airstrikes were carried out – five other countries were also bombed: Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan.

After the disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq begun under the Bush administration, Barack Obama ran on a platform of finally putting an end to both drawn out conflicts. American voters were beyond exasperated with what they rightly viewed as military ventures that had been costly in taxpayer dollars and uniformed lives with few tangible results. Such was the world’s faith in President Obama’s pledges that he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

With Obama’s two-term presidency drawing to a close, it might be difficult to say he has made good on these promises. Though he has done much to wind down the use of ground troops in these nations, Obama has replaced them with bombing raids and drone strikes.

And while this shift has meant fewer U.S. servicepeople coming home in caskets – certainly a change that has allowed for positive optics for the PR-conscious administration – the use of airstrikes has necessarily meant a greater likelihood of civilian deaths.

As such, data on such casualties have, until last year, been withheld from the public by the Department of Defense with officials previously maintaining that no innocent deaths had occurred. This assertion did eventually change, and in November U.S. officials announced that 64 civilians had been killed over the previous 12 months.

This, as readers may be able to guess by now, is almost certainly an extremely conservative estimate.

In October, Amnesty International reported that the U.S.-led anti-Islamic State coalition had conducted airstrikes resulting in approximately 300 civilian deaths over the past two years in Syria alone.

So not only can it be said that the continuing operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan are disappointments but so can the new conflicts the U.S. has entered and will continue to be involved in as President-elect Trump enters the Oval Office.

Among these is the U.S.’ participation in Yemen’s civil war, which has notably been largely ignored by major Western news outlets. This came about in October after a U.S. Navy boat came under missile attack while off Yemen’s coast.

One might hope that the ongoing debacle in Syria and Iraq will serve as a cautionary tale about getting involved in such conflicts and escalating our presence there without an endgame in mind. And with new leadership just around the corner, one which indicates it will enact a rather different doctrine, it may be an understatement to call the future of U.S. military intervention uncertain.

This week Ret. Gen. James Mattis was originally set to face hearings that would lead to him getting the job as the next secretary of defense. And though there is warranted controversy around Trump’s pick, Mattis may well be the least objectionable nominee among the group.

Having replaced General Petraeus in 2010 and before that serving as a key commander in the Iraq War, Mattis is as savvy as one can be on the conflicts the U.S. will be facing in that region. He has also not shied away from telling Trump what he thinks, at times going so far as to publicly disagree with the incoming president’s stances and call them poorly constructed. And Trump has listened.

Let us hope that with Ret. Gen. Mattis’ sway over Trump, 2017 will see fewer bombs dropped than in 2016.

Photo Credit: USAF / Wikimedia Commons


Peggy B
Peggy B2 months ago


Marie W
Marie Wabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

Chen Boon Fook
Chen Boon Fookabout a year ago


Deborah W
Deborah Wabout a year ago

ONCE the globe's foremost military power, the United States is no longer more than one among many major players in a number of conflicts. After doing the math, on average the U.S. military conducted an airstrike every three hours -- down into the ground on which live people, both friend and foe, with massive amounts of innocent victim souls randomly blown up without a second thought.. SICK TO THE CORE OF MY SOUL, yours? It should be argued that bombing every three hours is a conservative number, yet just valid enough to make a half-baked case for continuation along these same lines. Leaving prematurely rather than concentrating enough on filling the vacuums that would surely be left, we've allowed these many areas to fill with the various terrorist groups, now more firmly implanted than before, with the majority of airstrikes carried out from the same degree of distance and with the same lack of overall concern. After the disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq begun under Bush, Obama ran on a platform of ending both conflicts. American voters were beyond exasperated then, and even more so now. Costly in taxpayer dollars and uniformed lives, with few tangible results, YES -- as with All half-ass half-hearted attempts that have and will continue to fail. Yet such was the world's faith and hope in Obama's pledges that he was prematurely awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Never happened, CAN WE TAKE IT BACK?

Darlene Buckingham
Darlene Buckinghamabout a year ago

RW Hait: There is renewable energy. I agree that Obama is not spreading democracy or freedom by bombing people. It is craziness to think that bombs are a solution and hopefully we can get past thinking violence changes anything for the better. Violence only begets violence. The best we can do now is to tell our leaders this and to say NO to the use of violence.

Siyus C
Siyus Copetallusabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

Anne F
Anne Fabout a year ago

stop the endless war, bring the troops home

Elaine A
Elaine Al Meqdadabout a year ago


Elaine A
Elaine Al Meqdadabout a year ago


Marija M
Marija Mabout a year ago

US exporting democracy with bombs...