Surveillance surge puts more Reapers at Afghan airfield than any other

KANDAHAR AIR FIELD, Afghanistan — This expansive base has become home to the largest operational deployment of Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drones to one airfield, as the U.S.-led coalition works to gain momentum in the 16-year fight against a resilient Taliban insurgency.

The drones arrived recently to augment efforts to target the Taliban, which controls or contests more territory now than since its regime was toppled in the 2001 U.S.-led invasion. U.S. and Afghan forces are also battling an Islamic State affiliate that has taken root in the east and northwest.

“We’re going after the enemy, we’re going after the vehicles they use, we’re going after the buildings that they try to hide from us in,” Col. Stephen “Joker” Jones, an Air Force commander here who began flying unmanned aircraft in 2000, told Stars and Stripes on Tuesday.

Drones are the signature aircraft of the

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