Posts Tagged ‘troop deaths’

On Thursday, December 16, 2010, the White House will use its December review to try to spin the disastrous Afghanistan War plan by citing “progress” in the military campaign, but the available facts paint a picture of a war that’s not making us safer and that’s not worth the cost.

Let’s take a look at just the very broad strokes of the information. After more than nine years and a full year of a massive escalation policy:

And yet, we are told we can expect a report touting security gains and “progress,” and that there’s virtually zero chance of any significant policy change from this review. It sort of begs the question: just what level of catastrophe in Afghanistan would signal that we need a change in direction?

Insurgency Growing and Getting Stronger

This cat is already out of the bag, no matter how hard the Pentagon tries to reel it back in. In the ironically named “Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan,” published several weeks ago, the Pentagon told Congress that the insurgency’s organizational and geographic reach are qualitatively and geographically expanding. This growth is reflected in other statistics. According to USA TODAY, U.S. troops were hit with 7,000 more attacks this year compared to last year. About 3,800 troops were killed and injured by IEDs, about 1,000 more than last year. These statistics depict an insurgency with unbroken momentum, despite administration and military claims to the contrary.

As the signers of the Afghanistan Call to Reason put it last week,

“Despite these huge costs, the situation on the ground is much worse than a year ago because the Taliban insurgency has made progress across the country. It is now very difficult to work outside the cities or even move around Afghanistan by road. The insurgents have built momentum, exploiting the shortcomings of the Afghan government and the mistakes of the coalition. The Taliban today are now a national movement with a serious presence in the north and the west of the country. Foreign bases are completely isolated from their local environment and unable to protect the population.”

The insurgents’ momentum is clearly shown by the number of attacks they’ve initiated across the country so far this year. According to the Afghan NGO Safety Office (ANSO),

“The [Taliban] counter-offensive is increasingly mature, complex & effective. Country wide attacks have grown by 59% (p.10) while sophisticated recruitment techniques have helped activate networks of fighters in the North where European NATO contributors have failed to provide an adequate deterrent (p.11). Some provinces here are experiencing double the country average growth rate (p.12) and their districts are in danger of slipping beyond any control. Clumsy attempts to stem the developments, through the formation of local militia’s and intelligence-poor operations, have served to polarize communities with the IEA capitalizing on the local grievances that result. In the South, despite more robust efforts from the US NATO contingents, counterinsurgency operations in Kandahar and Marjah have similarly failed to degrade the IEA’s ability to fight, reduce the number of civilian combat fatalities (p.13) or deliver boxed Government.”

Here’s a helpful chart from ANSO’s report that shows the level of ever-escalating insurgent attacks across Afghanistan.

ANSO Chart, Afghanistan violence

The White House wants to weasel out of the implications of the data above by saying that the reason the statistics are going south is because, as Petraeus so often says, “when you take away areas important to the enemy, the enemy fights back.” So, we’re “on offense,” as President told troops few weeks ago during his trip to Afghanistan. Well, so what? The 1976 Buccaneers went on offense, too, but that didn’t mean they won games.

When the administration claims that they’re seeing “progress” in pockets of southern Helmand and Kandahar (a claim open to serious dispute, by the way, and strangely contradicted by some of Petraeus’ own spin), they’re displaying a familiar kind of confusion between the tactical and the strategic, one that seems to always pop up when we’re confronting a failed war.

“One of the iconic exchanges of Vietnam came, some years after the war, between Col. Harry Summers, a military historian, and a counterpart in the North Vietnamese Army. As Summers recalled it, he said, ‘You never defeated us in the field.’ To which the NVA officer replied: ‘That may be true. It is also irrelevant.'”

Pakistan’s Double Game

That brings us to Pakistan. According to the New York Times, two new National Intelligence Estimates “offer a more negative assessment [than the administration’s upcoming review] and say there is a limited chance of success unless Pakistan hunts down insurgents operating from havens on its Afghan border.” But that’s some serious wishful thinking, since Pakistan has long used the Taliban as a cat’s paw to combat growing Indian influence in Afghanistan. Pakistan wants the militants who threaten it internally suppressed, but it finds the militants who threaten the Karzai regime useful. Fixing that problem would requite U.S. policy follow the roots of their support of the Taliban all the way up to the India/Pakistan animosity, and nothing–nothing–in the U.S.’s military-first strategy comes close to doing so.

Troops Pay the Price

While U.S. politicians nibble at the edges of this real crisis, U.S. troops pay the bloody price, a price that’s gotten much worse with the arrival of the new escalation policy over the course of this year. At least 874 American troops have been killed in the war so far this year, compared to 317 for all of 2009. In the NATO hospital near Kandahar, doctors performed a major amputation once very other day in September.

These statistics go hand-in-hand with the huge rise in civilian casualties, which number some 2,400 this year so far, according to the Campaign for Innocent Civilians in Conflict.

Time for the White House to Get Real

The Obama administration is kidding itself if it thinks the American people will buy this attempted whitewash of the failure of the escalation strategy in Afghanistan. We are in the grips of a desperate unemployment crisis, wrapped in a larger economic meltdown. We are not ignorant of the $2 billion dollars sent per week on the war, and we want that money, and those young people, back here at home so we put people back to work.

Following the death of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, the president should take a step back and realize that we all have to travel down that road some day. He should think about what legacy he wants to leave behind him. Postponing a final end to U.S. military action in Afghanistan until 2014 puts U.S. taxpayers and American troops on the hook for an enormous investment of blood and treasure in a failing enterprise with no prospects for a turnaround.

A real, honest review would objectively conclude that the enterprise is failing and that the best alternative is to start removing U.S. troops immediately to stave off continued economic and social damage caused by this war that’s not making us safer nor worth the cost.

Please watch our latest video and share it with your friends. Then, join Rethink Afghanistan on Facebook and Twitter.

Note: Derrick Crowe is the Afghanistan blog fellow for Brave New FoundationThe Seminal. Learn how the war in Afghanistan undermines U.S. security: watch Rethink Afghanistan (Part Six), & visit

Yesterday, October officially became the deadliest month for U.S. forces in Afghanistan since the war began. The death toll was pushed over that grim marker by improvised explosive devices (IEDs), the single deadliest weapon used against U.S. forces in Afghanistan. IED deaths have increased alongside U.S. troop increases every year since the U.S. invaded.

Paraphrasing Joint IED Defeat Organization Director Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz, Stars and Stripes reported today that:

IED attacks in Afghanistan have gone up along with the rising troop levels and likely will continue to increase if more U.S. forces are sent there…

That’s a real problem for the measure of success set out by General Stanley McChrystal for the U.S. effort in Afghanistan:

American success in Afghanistan should be measured by “the number of Afghans shielded from violence,” not the number of enemy fighters killed, he said.

What’s the connection? Well, it turns out IEDs are also the single greatest conflict-related killer of civilians. The fact that the use of IEDs increases along with U.S. troop deployments explains the similarity between these two graphs:

Civilian Deaths Compared to Troop Deployments

Military officials have warned that sending more troops to Afghanistan will likely result in a “tough fight” (read: rising U.S. casualty rates). If President Obama adds more troops in Afghanistan, especially in densely populated areas, get ready to see another major spike in civilian deaths as well.

Note: Derrick Crowe is the Afghanistan blog fellow for Brave New Foundation / The Seminal. Learn how the war in Afghanistan undermines U.S. security: watch Rethink Afghanistan (Part Six), & visit

President Obama wants you to know he can be tough like Sarah Palin:

President Barack Obama on Tuesday ruled out shrinking the Afghanistan war to a counterterrorism campaign. Yet he did not signal whether he is prepared to send any more troops to the war zone — either the 40,000 his top commander wants or a smaller buildup, according to several officials.

Obama said the war would not be reduced to a narrowly defined counterterrorism effort…[S]uch a scenario has been inaccurately characterized and linked to Vice President Joe Biden, and…Obama wanted to make clear he is considering no such plan.

So, contrary to all the propaganda, the White House Afghanistan Huddle is only considering a very narrow set of options, all apparently within the counterinsurgency domain. What’s been hyped as wide-ranging debate challenging fundamental assumptions turns out to be a chat in the minivan about whether or not to SuperSize the value meal. Go, team.

Oh, and we’re putting it on the credit card. You know, the same credit card that brought you our current economic apocalypse.

Here’s the balance sheet:

According to the National Priorities Project,

Taxpayers in the United States will pay $228 billion for total Afghanistan war spending since 2001. For the same amount of money, the following could have been provided:

  • 67,197,963 People with Health Care for One Year OR
  • 236,038,753 Homes with Renewable Electricity for One Year OR
  • 4,924,406 Public Safety Officers for One year OR
  • 3,909,968 Music and Arts Teachers for One Year OR
  • 35,250,464 Scholarships for University Students for One Year OR
  • 42,616,822 Students receiving Pell Grants of $5350 OR
  • 1,773,590 Affordable Housing Units OR
  • 100,491,438 Children with Health Care for One Year OR
  • 31,288,596 Head Start Places for Children for One Year OR
  • 3,745,380 Elementary School Teachers for One Year OR
  • 3,294,203 Port Container Inspectors for One year

And here’s the butcher’s bill:

Here’s a graphic that provides a succinct synopsis of the above:

Engraving of the Roman armies defeating elephant troops of Pyrrhus during the Battle of Asculum in 280 BC which was a costly victory for Pyrrhus, giving rise to the phrase a Pyrrhic victory.

"Engraving of the Roman armies defeating elephant troops of Pyrrhus during the Battle of Asculum in 280 BC which was a costly victory for Pyrrhus, giving rise to the phrase 'a Pyrrhic victory'."

If this is the path to victory, it won’t take many more such victories to ruin us.

Eight years is enough. Sign the petition to end the war in Afghanistan.

I’ve just launched an petition asking the White House to end the war in Afghanistan. Please sign it (you must have a Twitter account to do so) and forward it around to your networks. It includes an embedded section of the Rethink Afghanistan documentary and a link to Peace Action West’s Facebook vigil at the White House.

Here’s the link:

Here’s the text of the petition:

Eight Years is Enough: Tell the White House to End the War in Afghanistan

As President Obama considers the way forward in Afghanistan, he should listen to the fifty-seven percent of Americans who oppose the war [AP-GfK poll, Oct. 1-5]. Eight years is enough—it’s time to end the war in Afghanistan.

So far, this war has cost us:

  • $228 billion,
  • 869 dead American troops, and
  • thousands of Afghan civilian casualties (roughly 5200 since the U.N. started counting in 2007).

Wednesday, October 7, 2009 marks the eighth anniversary of the war in Afghanistan. Eight years is enough. It’s time to bring the troops home.

Here’s how you can help end the war:

Eight years is enough. Tell the White House to end the war in Afghanistan.

For those who aren’t familiar with, it’s a web advocacy tool that allows you to sign and retweet petitions via Twitter. It targets a Twitter user and tracks how long its been since they responded to you.

Please sign and pass along, and share it on your other social networks.

Note: Derrick Crowe is the Afghanistan blog fellow for Brave New Foundation / The Seminal. Learn how the war in Afghanistan undermines U.S. security: watch Rethink Afghanistan (Part Six), & visit

The Times breaks the bad news:

Four American soldiers died in a roadside bomb in Afghanistan today, making 2009 the deadliest year for foreign troops there since the 2001 invasion.

With four months of the year still to go, today’s deaths in Helmand province bring the number of foreign forces killed in 2009 to 295, according to the website, which compiles official data. The previous deadliest year was 2008, when 294 foreign troops died.

Civilian casualties are also rising. The Pashtuns rejected election participation.

It’s not working. It’s time to leave.