WATCH: American Aircraft Strike Insurgents In Afghanistan [VIDEO]

Alex Quade Freelance War Reporter
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(Editor’s Note to Video Exclusive: Freelance War Reporter Alex Quade embedded with Task Force Fury in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, as they called in airstrikes with B1-Bs and close combat attack with Apache helicopters in 2007. She tracked down the aircraft and takes you for ride-alongs to gain the crews’ perspectives on dropping bombs and firing missiles – in support of elite 1/508th Parachute Infantrymen and ODAs from the 7th Special Forces Group. In Alex Quade’s video, you’ll see the decision-making process the JTAC, or air controller, and ground force commander go through to call in air strikes – as his soldiers encounter a car bomb, and come under fire during a massive air assault operation. Per embed guidelines, in Quade’s video: no full names, aircraft tail numbers or locations released. Quade is able to release this video now, because operations taking place and the process for calling in airstrikes are different from what she witnessed firsthand, both in Afghanistan—with the drawdown of U.S. troops, and in Iraq, in the current situation with ISIL. But, as you’ll read in her short update article below, the dangers in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province continue to this day, as does the U.S. reliance on air strikes to fight terrorist groups.)

WASHINGTON — At the Pentagon, Rear Adm. John Kirby confirmed last week that the U.S. military targeted and killed an Islamic State deputy governor in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, because he and his associates were planning attacks.

“U.S. forces in Afghanistan conducted a precision strike in Helmand province, resulting in the death of eight individuals, who include Abdul Rauf Khadim, a former Taliban commander,” Kirby said in the press conference.

Mullah Rauf Khadim spent years at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after his capture by U.S. forces in Afghanistan in 2001. After his release in 2007, he re-established ties with the Taliban and Mullah Omar, its supreme leader. Last month, Khadim pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, also known as ISIL, ISIS, or its Arabic name, Daesh. He was said to have “scores of ISIL fighters in Helmand Province,” according to The Long War Journal, a website which tracks militants.

When asked about the Islamic State’s military size, strength and activity in Afghanistan, Kirby replied:

“The way I would describe ISIL in Afghanistan is nascent at best. I would say more aspirational than anything else at this point. This guy Khadim, we assess that he decided to swear allegiance to ISIL probably no more than a couple weeks ago.”

“If they’re going to threaten our interest, our allies, our partners in Afghanistan, they’re fair game,” Kirby added.

Even though the U.S. mission in Afghanistan officially changed Dec. 31, 2014, with troop numbers drawing down through 2016, military commanders are watching to see if ISIL is expanding into other areas outside Iraq.

Meanwhile, as Congress considers President Obama’s proposal for new war powers to battle ISIL in Iraq, the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve released new air strike numbers.

“As of today [Feb. 16, 2015], there have been 2,432 U.S. and Coalition airstrikes conducted in Iraq and Syria, since the mission began last August,” CJTF-OIR spokesperson, Major Kim Michelsen said.

Maj. Michelson reiterated what CENTCOM spokesperson Maj. Curt Kellogg has said in the past month:

“There are no U.S. JTACs on the ground, at this time, in front line positions with Iraqi troops, calling in airstrikes.”

Maj. Michelsen added that B1-Bs and Apache helicopters are among the air assets providing close air support for Iraqi troops battling ISIL.