Several news reports have stated that the investigation into air strikes against Taliban forces in May that claimed the lives of numerous civilians has found that the US military may not have followed the latest rules of engagement, which had been tightened in an attempt to prevent civilian casualties. The New York Times first reported that a senior US military official faulted both air and ground forces in making “significant errors” during the more than seven-hour engagement on May 4 that involved US and Afghan military ground forces battling Taliban. The Los Angeles Times reported that the investigation is still ongoing, including assessing whether the ground forces that called for continued close air support late in the battle could have realized they were no longer in imminent danger of being overrun. A USAF B-1B made the last strike, employing a 2,000-pound weapon, which investigators now believe was too much for the situation. US marines working with Afghan soldiers reportedly tried to dissuade the Afghans from engaging the Taliban in the village of Garani, but when the Afghans rejected their advice, the marines continued assisting them and called in air strikes when the Afghans felt they could be overrun. One issue, too, is whether the B-1B crew violated ROE when they briefly lost visual contact with the target site as they positioned for the strike, however, according to LAT, the US marines maintained continual visual contact with the target and believed there were no civilians present. Since the incident, various US officials have maintained the need to redouble efforts to avoid civilian casualties, but they also said that it would be wrong to declare CAS off-limits as a means to support ground forces in need.
The Air Force will begin its 71st annual Operation Christmas Drop on Dec. 4. The weeklong exercise is a yearly tradition that delivers supplies such as food, fishing equipment, school books, and clothes to remote islands in the Pacific. It is the longest-running Department of Defense humanitarian mission.