Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Afghanistan - The War That Keeps On Taking

Recent testimony by Defense Secretary James Mattis before the Senate Armed Services Committee provides us with an interesting glimpse into what lies ahead in Afghanistan.  This conflict which began on October 7, 2001, within a month of the September 11th, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, has ground on for nearly 16 years and the nation is still no safer for its people and no less politically unstable than it was in 2001.  While the American-led combat mission officially ended on December 28, 2014, making this the longest war fought in U.S. history, as you will see in this posting, the cost of the war continues to mount.

Let's look at some statistics first.  Here is a table showing the coalition military fatalities linked to Operation Enduring Freedom:

Here is a table showing the number of deaths of U.S. military personnel:

Here is a table showing the number of deaths related to the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs):

Here is a bar graph showing the number of civilians killed in the Afghani hostilities up to 2015:

It is estimated that more than 31,000 civilians were killed in direct violence since the October 7, 2001 invasion.

Here is a graphic showing the patterns of civilian killings in Afghanistan between 2009 and 2015:

Here is a graphic showing both the number of Afghani civilians killed and injured from 2009 to 2015:

According to the Watson Institute,  the cumulative total spent (in current dollars) on the Afghanistan war from fiscal 2001 to 2016 reached $783 billion.  Here is a graphic showing the annual appropriations for each of the U.S. war operations:

In addition, the Obama Administration admitted in mid-2016 that its plan to reduce the number of troops in Afghanistan would be delayed; as a result, they requested more than $44 billion for the operations in the Afghanistan theatre for fiscal 2017.  As well, more than $117 billion has been allocated to reconstruction projects throughout the nation according to SIGAR. 

With that background, let's look at Defense Secretary Mattis' most recent comments on Afghanistan.  He requested $64.6 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations which includes operations in Afghanistan, Iran and Syria with the goal of "increasing efforts to sustain NATO's defences to deter aggression and global counterterrorism operations.  He states that it is necessary for the United States to "sustain the international presence in Afghanistan to help stabilize the South Asia region and deny terrorists a safe haven."  According to Reuters, he also remarked that the United States was "not winning" the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan as shown here:


Here is his justification for these expenditures:

"More broadly, this need to preserve our security also requires us to sustain the international presence in Afghanistan to help stabilize the South Asia region and deny terrorists a safe haven.  Instability in the Middle East spills over into other regions. Extremists and extremist ideologies have spread to Europe, Africa, and Asia. Numerous countries are dealing with forced migration of people seeking to escape violence and despair, reminding us that problems originating in ungoverned or combat torn areas don’t remain there. The United States is engaged in the Middle East to help restore order and give the people who live there a more hopeful future, building a better security situation for Americans who want a safer and more prosperous world for our future."

Again, according to SIGAR, the period between January and October 2016 saw armed clashes between Afghani security forces and the Taliban rise by 22 percent over the same period a year earlier and actually reached their highest level since United Nations reporting began in 2007.  Here is a graphic showing the number of reported security incidents per day between November 2012 and November 2016:

Secretary Mattis also told Congress that by mid-July, he would have a strategy for combating the Taliban, a plan that many experts predict will include the addition of thousands of troops to the roughly 9000 that are still in-country, particularly given the nation's declining security status.  Currently, the fight between the coalition and the Taliban is at a stalemate and, in fact, once again, the Afghanis are losing as shown here:

According to mainstream media sources, the bombing which took place in a secured diplomatic area of Kabul killed at least 90 people and wounded more than 460.

In case you still aren't convinced that the Afghanistan war has been a complete loss, here is a graphic showing the number of deaths in Afghanistan due to terrorist attacks on an annual basis between 2009 and 2015:

It would be nice to think that we learned lessons from the failed Soviet occupation of the 1980s but, apparently, Afghanistan is the war that keeps on taking and taking and taking.....

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