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  • Technorati: graph / links

    Casualties in Afghanistan


    by Rumbold on 12th July, 2009 at 9:55 am    

    As Britain suffers a spate of losses in Afghanistan, more and more people are beginning to question whether we should be there at all, and if we are there, what we should be aiming to achieve. Judging the war solely on casualties (both current and predicted ones), should we remain in Afghanistan?

    No

    Each casualty is a tragedy, especially as some of them could have been avoided if the Ministry of Defence had bought the right equipment. This sort of attitude shows that our soldiers will be put in unnecessary danger in the future. Casualties have been rising at a faster rate recently, and since there is no clear end in sight (given that the Taliban are a guerrilla force), we do not know how long we will be there. Some other nations are not doing enough to help, nor are they likely to do so.

    Yes

    However, compared to most wars in history, casualties are very low. For much of the period before the 20th century, the ineffectiveness of firearms, combined with the unsanitary conditions of a military camp meant that non-combat casualties often outnumbered combat ones. In the 20th century, the advent of the machine gun and similar mass killing devices tilted the balance, while now, the combination of better sanitation and much better medical care (at least in Western nations) has helped to minimise the numbers dead. Nor do the Taliban have access to particularly heavy weaponry (such as aircraft). Thanks to the Pakistan army closing the main crossing points (for the moment) on the border, Taliban can now travel only on foot, when they used to travel around in an armada of jeeps.

    This is only meant to be a very narrow analysis of the Afghan conflict. There are obviously many more factors to consider. But it still is pertinent to ask how many casualties is Britain willing to stomach in order to win a war which might not be winnable.



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    38 Comments below   |   Add your own

    1. Miriam Binder — on 12th July, 2009 at 10:33 am  

      The initial invasion of Afghanistan was a knee jerk reaction. It was ill planned without any clearly defined goals and certainly without any sort of exit strategy.

      I don’t think we should ever have gone there and I certainly think that the sooner we get out the better. The longer we stay, the worst it is going to be in the long run and that is not just because of the rising number of casualties.

    2. Scots Tiger — on 12th July, 2009 at 3:42 pm  

      STAND BY GALLANT AFGHANISTAN!

      … so many of our lovely and highly-regarded politicians have an interest there now, many of them frae North O’ the Border, from Lord Robertson of NATO to One-Eye McBroon of that Ilk Himself.

      It would be a betrayal of all that NuLab stands for to abandon Democratic Afghanistan in Her Hour of Need.

      It is often said by mean and ill-informed people that the ever-chic Karzai has a brace of brothers who are involved in the opium-haulage trade, but we may be certain thar One-Eye McBroon and his Spin Doctors would categorically refute so disgraceful an assertion.

    3. damon — on 12th July, 2009 at 6:35 pm  

      What ever we do in Afghanistan, it’ll all probably end up as an anti-climax and a disappointment, just like Britain’s involvement in Iraq has been.
      After years of struggle (and death on all sides) there will be some prouncement that we’re pulling out like we did in Iraq, and that country will still be esentially the same. Women in Burkhas, and the tribal culture as it ever was - just updated with 4×4s, mobile phones and internet cafes.
      I think it’s now realised that you can’t just wave a magic wand to get rid of all the conservatism that the country is steeped in. As I’ve heard on the likes of the Andrew Marr show, the Taliban are seen by many as a Pashtun resistance to foriegn occupation.
      Killing them all can hardly be an option.
      Maybe we’re following the Sri Lankan example of how they crushed the LTTE.

    4. Kulvinder — on 12th July, 2009 at 8:08 pm  

      The initial invasion of Afghanistan was a knee jerk reaction.

      It was a wholly justifiable act that any country would have done against an attack that was a defacto act of war. I completely suppported the invasion of Afghanistan and have never once questioned it since.

      The on going situation there is distinct from that and although i equally support it i do so beacause the democratically elected afghan government has asked us to stay.

      I have to say im somewhat surprised at the seeming hesitancy in the media about the army presence there. Yes its difficult, yes people die, but the afghans through their representatives have asked us to stay and it would be grossly inhumane to just turn our backs on them - especially after all the (justifiable) criticism for the west ‘turning their backs’ on that region after the cold war.

    5. Vikrant — on 12th July, 2009 at 8:39 pm  

      It was a wholly justifiable act that any country would have done against an attack that was a defacto act of war. I completely suppported the invasion of Afghanistan and have never once questioned it since.

      Yes, exactly.

      The problem with British deployments both in Afghanistan and Iraq are that they are too freaking small and without a clear political and military purpose that the US army has. When Basra descended into chaos, British army ultimately had to rely on American firepower to take back the city. British army doctrine is pretty out dated. Afghanistan and Iraq aren’t Northern Ireland style engagements. Its best for Britain to withdraw from Afghanistan if the only reason the army is there is tokenism!

    6. Miriam Binder — on 12th July, 2009 at 9:18 pm  

      @ Kulvinder #5 - We did not experience a defacto act of war if you are referring to 9/11. America may well have done. However the fact that the current regime in Afghanistan may well have requested to continued presence of ‘foreign troops’ on its soil is not reason enough to continue our presence there. We are not really achieving anything by continuing to ’shore up’ a government that cannot rule its own people without the physical support of foreign troops.

    7. thabet — on 12th July, 2009 at 9:19 pm  

      I highly recommend this by Rory Stewart.

    8. Kulvinder — on 12th July, 2009 at 9:19 pm  

      I’d disagree with tokenism (in helmand?) but yes the presence is comparatively small, but then so is the army when looked at from the american pov.

    9. Roger — on 12th July, 2009 at 9:31 pm  

      “However, compared to most wars in history, casualties are very low”
      You mean British casualties are very low. Taliban casulaties are probably high. Afghan non-combatant casualties are probably very high.

    10. Kulvinder — on 12th July, 2009 at 9:33 pm  

      We did not experience a defacto act of war if you are referring to 9/11. America may well have done.

      Regardless the invasion wasn’t a ‘knee jerk reaction’

      We are not really achieving anything by continuing to ’shore up’ a government that cannot rule its own people without the physical support of foreign troops.

      We are shoring up a democracy against theological despots. I’m unsure of your definition of achievement but to me thats more than enough.

    11. Boyo — on 12th July, 2009 at 9:39 pm  

      ‘We are shoring up a democracy against theological despots”

      If only. Afghanistan needs to develop its own form of government. Unless we are prepared to invest in it as we did in Germany it is hardly likely it will develop any kind of democracy we recognise (or like).

      The only reason we should be there is to ensure our security and that of our allies, Sadly, not least because of the distraction of Iraq, we have so far failed.

    12. 1mongrel — on 12th July, 2009 at 9:51 pm  

      Miriam (7)

      We lost more Britons on 9/11 than the total of UK forces killed so far in Afghanistan. Unlike our NY Office Workers Soldiers are equipped to fight back.

    13. thabet — on 12th July, 2009 at 10:07 pm  

      “We are shoring up a democracy against theological despots.”

      You might want to take a closer look at the Afghan govt and their allies.

    14. Cabalamat — on 13th July, 2009 at 12:28 am  

      Judging the war solely on casualties

      It would make just as much sense to judge the war solely on the fashion sense of the Taliban. Or the shape of Afghanistan on a map. Or whether there’s am R in the month.

    15. Kulvinder — on 13th July, 2009 at 12:38 am  

      You might want to take a closer look at the Afghan govt and their allies.

      I have. But progress doesn’t always mean admirable politicians; the NI assembly is full of equally questionable if not outright repugnant individuals.

      The direction is more important.

    16. Golam Murtaza — on 13th July, 2009 at 5:28 am  

      If we’re going to discuss casualties, it’s worth mentioning the Afghan police have apparently lost FIFTY killed in the past week. And have been losing six to 10 killed every day since March. These are the latest statistics supplied by the Afghan Government, according to AFP.

      I know the Afghan police takes a lot of stick, and I’m sure much of that is justified. But I wonder what police force in the world would be effective in the face of those kinds of losses? Especially if it’s usually the bravest, most conscientious officers getting killed.

      Of course those figures don’t take into account the numbers of Afghan police officers being seriously injured. Or the numbers of Afghan National Army soldiers being killed and wounded.

      I understand the total figure for Afghan security forces killed since 2001 (the same guys we’re training and supplying) is now approaching 5,000. That’s more than five times the coalition death toll.

      It all brings to mind that bitter quip from the Soviet occupation era, the one about how we would heroically “fight to the last Afghan” to defeat the Communists.

    17. Miriam Binder — on 13th July, 2009 at 6:13 am  

      @ 1mongrel #12 - We have lost Britons in many circumstances and not all of them have caused an invasion.

      @ kulvinder #10 - The initial invasion of Afghanistan was done without any clear idea of what we were hoping to achieve. The forces that were sent in were not prepared for the conditions either in terms of appropriate training/acclimatisation of the troops or in terms of appropriate kit/gear/supplies. It was a reactionary rather then a planned show of force.

      We are shoring up a government that was elected in a shambles of ‘democratic’ process. The country was in a state of intermission rather then cessation. For democracy to be fully engaged all options need be possible. This was not the case in Afghanistan at the time of the elections.

      Further, the idea that ‘democracy’ is in some way an overriding justification or indeed the only necessary qualfication for ensuring that a people are ruled in the way they elect to be ruled is extremely undemocratic in itself.

      @ kulvinder #15 - The direction is surely a primary consideration and it seems that it is the very lack of direction - as evidenced by the number of changes in direction - that is the primary concern.

    18. Random Guy — on 13th July, 2009 at 8:23 am  

      To all the supporters of the illegal invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, take a moment to remind yourselves that hundreds of thousands of civilians were murdered and made refugees by the “noble” alliance of the U.K. and the U.S. The superior firepower of the western nations lead to a higher kill-rate of the indigeneous population (Taliban and non-Taliban), so take a moment to ponder on the desire for retribution all these people will have. Then recall the withdrawal of the Russians in 1989.

      You can sit on your moral high horse all day and spout your righteous comments about “shoring up democracy” and “acts of war” (which are comments from cuckoo-land imo), but recall that since WW2, any Western military involvement in a foreign country has without exception led to more misery and bloodshed on both sides. This time will be no different. This is avoidable.

      The UK and US need a win on this “War on Terror” so badly, which is why they are choosing to stick it out.

    19. 1mongrel — on 13th July, 2009 at 8:32 am  

      Random (18)

      But surely the “Superior Firepower” is how islam got there in the first place. If only they’d thought before using the first cannons to kill christians at Constantinople. When you start an arms race you need to make sure you stay in front.

    20. The Dude — on 13th July, 2009 at 9:23 am  

      9/11 made the invasion of Afghanistan inevitable and I supported it as such (unlike Iraq). For me the original mission was straight forward. Search and destroy. We DID NOT go into that country to either rebuild a nation, save important historial artifacts or send girls to schools. We went in there to totally smash and wipe from the face of the earth the terrorist organisation known as “The Network”. Now that it is CLEAR that OUR original mission statement has changed, we should follow the Russians and leave.

    21. mysteryman — on 13th July, 2009 at 11:00 am  

      Random Guy — on 13th July, 2009 at 8:23 am
      To all the supporters of the illegal invasion and occupation of Afghanistan……………

      ……….. but recall that since WW2, any Western military involvement in a foreign country has without exception led to more misery and bloodshed on both sides……..

      LIES LIES LIES! You may not like it but there was nothing illegal about the invasion of Afghanistan. What did you expect to happen? That over 3,000 people would be murdered in NYC and that the West would say what? Oh never mind lets just forget it? Who is really in Cuckoo land? You remind us about the desire for retribution but then deny the West the right to that same retribution?

      As for your odious comment about Western military this is also LIES ! What about the Brits in Sierra Leone? They killed a miniscule amount of locals (Less than 50 most of whom were hostage takers IIRC) and stopped the butchering and rape of hundreds of thousands of people. What about Kosovo? Didn’t the “evil” west step in there and stop genocide?

    22. Kulvinder — on 13th July, 2009 at 11:01 am  

      The initial invasion of Afghanistan was done without any clear idea of what we were hoping to achieve. The forces that were sent in were not prepared for the conditions either in terms of appropriate training/acclimatisation of the troops or in terms of appropriate kit/gear/supplies. It was a reactionary rather then a planned show of force.

      I have no idea what your point is, im unaware of the military logistics that were required eight years ago and frankly don’t care.

      Further, the idea that ‘democracy’ is in some way an overriding justification or indeed the only necessary qualfication for ensuring that a people are ruled in the way they elect to be ruled is extremely undemocratic in itself.

      Can you rephrase this.

    23. Kulvinder — on 13th July, 2009 at 11:10 am  

      You can sit on your moral high horse all day and spout your righteous comments about “shoring up democracy” and “acts of war” (which are comments from cuckoo-land imo), but recall that since WW2, any Western military involvement in a foreign country has without exception led to more misery and bloodshed on both sides.

      Pointing out that ANY military intervention leads to an increase in bloodshed is little more than a tautology.

      What exactly do you think the military does?

      I’m not a pacifist and accept people on all sides will die; until the afghan people tell us through their representatives to leave, i accept and they accept that those deaths aren’t in vain but for a greater good.

    24. Mephisto — on 13th July, 2009 at 12:44 pm  

      We did not experience a defacto act of war if you are referring to 9/11. America may well have done.

      Under the terms of the NATO treaty, an attack against one party is regarded as an attack on all. The US invoked the treaty in response to 9/11, which then justified NATO’s involvement in Afghanistan.

      So legally speaking 9/11 was an act of war against us as well.

    25. Mephisto — on 13th July, 2009 at 12:44 pm  

      We did not experience a defacto act of war if you are referring to 9/11. America may well have done.

      Under the terms of the NATO treaty, an attack against one party is regarded as an attack on all. The US invoked the treaty in response to 9/11, which then justified NATO’s involvement in Afghanistan.

      So legally speaking 9/11 was an act of war against us as well.

    26. Dalbir — on 13th July, 2009 at 12:52 pm  

      The coalition have lost all moral authority on the matter with Iraq, sick abuse of prisoners and the regular ‘accidental’ killing of Johnny Public.

      Besides, I really don’t know what the hoo ha is about, the numbers that have died are miniscule.

    27. munir — on 13th July, 2009 at 12:58 pm  

      Mephisto
      “Under the terms of the NATO treaty, an attack against one party is regarded as an attack on all. The US invoked the treaty in response to 9/11, which then justified NATO’s involvement in Afghanistan.”

      Yeah funny that when Britain had its war on terrorism against the IRA the Americans main contribution was to fund the people bombing us. But when THEY get attacked we must support them!!

    28. munir — on 13th July, 2009 at 1:01 pm  

      mysteryman

      “LIES LIES LIES! You may not like it but there was nothing illegal about the invasion of Afghanistan. What did you expect to happen? That over 3,000 people would be murdered in NYC and that the West would say what? Oh never mind lets just forget it? Who is really in Cuckoo land?”

      Being in Cuckoo land is believeing you can invade someone elses land and they wont resist you -or to condemn them for doing so when you would do exactly the same

      Its like -we have the right to defend ourselves (and even attack countries like Iraq which never attacked us) -you dont!

      “You remind us about the desire for retribution but then deny the West the right to that same retribution?”

      So when does the retribution end?

    29. Mephisto — on 13th July, 2009 at 1:56 pm  

      Yeah funny that when Britain had its war on terrorism against the IRA the Americans main contribution was to fund the people bombing us. But when THEY get attacked we must support them!!

      For a start, the conflict with the IRA in Northern Ireland was an internal matter and therefore didn’t fall under the remit of the NATO treaty.

      And, besides, the American government didn’t fund the IRA. More could have been done to stop NORAID and other organisations from channelling money to the Provos and others, a lesson that was learned after 9/11, but that’s not really the point - the American government was justified in invoking the NATO treaty after the attacks, which means that it was to be considered legally an attack on all NATO members.

      Being in Cuckoo land is believeing you can invade someone elses land and they wont resist you -or to condemn them for doing so when you would do exactly the same

      Afghanistan was the Taliban’s land? Really? I don’t recall them winning any elections.

      Most Afghan people did, and still do, support the invasion. Most Afghan people are far better off for it. Or are the only views that matter to you those of the psychotic fundamentalists stinging because their rule was overthrown?

      The Taliban is not “resisting” an occupation. It’s fighting to overthrow the legitimate government of Afghanistan and replace it with a barbaric theocracy. There is no national or popular resistance at all - it’s entirely an attempt by totalitarian fanatics to regain their prior illegitimate rule.

    30. soru — on 13th July, 2009 at 2:19 pm  

      ‘Being in Cuckoo land is believeing you can invade someone elses land and they wont resist you -or to condemn them for doing so when you would do exactly the same’

      yes - it is a valid question why the mostly Pakistani Taliban ever thought they would win acceptance of their rule over the afghan people. They never managed it in over a period of about two decades, despite external support from not only Pakistan and Saudi Arabia but also the US. Alexander, the British empire and the Russians all failed to conquer Afghanistan, it would have been remarkable if some Pashtun tribesmen had done so.

      As it turned out, the arab mercenaries they hired pissed off the NATO countries enough that they got involved too. But if the Taliban had any popular legitimacy, they wouldn’t have need to hire arab mercenaries to keep the populace in line in the first place…

      NATO does need to be wary of mission creep. The goal is not to turn Afghanistan into Belgium, just to defend it against the Taliban. A sovereign Afghanistan can turn itself into whatever it wants. Bangladesh would be about the best plausible model, but (and this would be the hard thing for NATO countries to accept) Iran would be a legitimate choice too.

    31. Dalbir — on 13th July, 2009 at 2:28 pm  

      Everyone, lets all give up and do exactly what WASPY white man wants. That’s the only way they will be happy.

    32. munir — on 13th July, 2009 at 2:49 pm  

      Mephisto
      “For a start, the conflict with the IRA in Northern Ireland was an internal matter and therefore didn’t fall under the remit of the NATO treaty.”

      “And, besides, the American government didn’t fund the IRA.”

      They met its leader and allowed funds to be raised to kill British people in the UK

      ” More could have been done to stop NORAID and other organisations from channelling money to the Provos and others, a lesson that was learned after 9/11, but that’s not really the point”

      It absolutely is the point - when we were being bombed by the IRA the US did nothing to help and as shown supported them even if tacitly to get Irish American votes. There werent US soldeiers patrolling the streets of Belfast figting the IRA.
      So why should we fight a war and lose our soldiers when they got bombed.

      Good grief seems you put the US’s interests above the UK’s!

      “Afghanistan was the Taliban’s land? Really? I don’t recall them winning any elections.”

      Unlike Bush hey? Elected Emir of Afghanistan.
      (and Taliban friend)

      The problem is that anyone who resists US occupation is termed “Taliban” - though they may not be part of the Taliban and may be resisting for their own nationalistic reasons (they are a fiercely independent people in Afghanistan)

      Yes the Taliban are unpopular but they still represent a part of Afghan Pashtun opinion- ignoring this and not incorporating them into the political process (as even Karzai suggested before he was poo-pood) is just a reciepe for more conflict.
      ——-
      soru

      “yes – it is a valid question why the mostly Pakistani Taliban ever thought they would win acceptance of their rule over the afghan people.”

      Err.. werent the Taliban mainly made up of Afghan refugees living in Pakistan ?

      ” They never managed it in over a period of about two decades, despite external support from not only Pakistan and Saudi Arabia but also the US.”

      What on earth are you talking about? The Taliban ruled for 5 years

      ” Alexander, the British empire and the Russians all failed to conquer Afghanistan, it would have been remarkable if some Pashtun tribesmen had done so.”

      Er arent Pashtuns the largest ethnic group (42%) and traditional rulers ?

      “As it turned out, the arab mercenaries they hired pissed off the NATO countries enough that they got involved too. But if the Taliban had any popular legitimacy, they wouldn’t have need to hire arab mercenaries to keep the populace in line in the first place…”

      Its more nuanced that than- when the Taliban first started they were popular since they brought stability and an end to 20 years fighting - this accounts for the speed of their victories and the numbers of people joining them . However they alienated people with their harshness and strictness.

      I love the part about “Arab mercenaries”- these of course were the Arabs who left their lands and gave their blood and wealth to fight the Russian invasion of Afghanistan.

      The same anti-Arab racist Muslims like Faisal who use terms like Arab mercenaries and bad mouth these fighters will then complain that “Arabs dont care about non Arab Muslim causes”

      “NATO does need to be wary of mission creep. The goal is not to turn Afghanistan into Belgium, just to defend it against the Taliban. A sovereign Afghanistan can turn itself into whatever it wants.”

      A soverign Afghanistan? Now thats funny.

      “Bangladesh would be about the best plausible model, but (and this would be the hard thing for NATO countries to accept) Iran would be a legitimate choice too.”

      Afghanistan is a conservative Islamic country.

    33. Taliban jihadis hide among civilians, dress…. African American Political Pundit Blog: Obama’s…. | Total Info — on 13th July, 2009 at 3:10 pm  

      [...] no clear end in sight (given that the Taliban are a guerrilla force), we do not know hRead more at http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/5129 Tags: Afghanistan « huma abedin >> Obama agenda: Needing a heavier…. [...]

    34. Kulvinder — on 13th July, 2009 at 3:11 pm  

      Err.. werent the Taliban mainly made up of Afghan refugees living in Pakistan ?

      The foot soldiers were, the real power obviously lay in pakistan. And the point is valid it was the pakistan taliban that initiated everything (with the help of the isi) - that is where the afghan refugees were indoctrinated; and all of that is the reason for the massive unpopularity of pakistan in afghanistan (91% have an unfavorable opinion)

    35. soru — on 13th July, 2009 at 5:39 pm  

      ‘What on earth are you talking about? The Taliban ruled for 5 years’

      At no time did they conquer the whole country. In fact, pretty much all the previous foreign invaders did better.

      ‘these of course were the Arabs who left their lands and gave their blood and wealth to fight the Russian invasion of Afghanistan.’

      Are you saying you support the CIA and ISI’s usage of foreign mercenaries to attack afghans? Remember, that started before the Russians got involved:

      http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/BRZ110A.html

    36. mysteryman — on 14th July, 2009 at 8:55 am  

      Dalbir — on 13th July, 2009 at 2:28 pm

      Nice to see anti-white racism left unchallenged!

      Mephisto — on 13th July, 2009 at 1:56 pm The Taliban is not “resisting” an occupation……….

      EXACTLY! I couldn’t have put it better myself.

      Munir – I never said nor expected that western troops would face no resistance, nor did I mention Iraq, but never mind, as long as you don’t let hatred blind you into reading things that aren’t there.

      Your point “when we were being bombed by the IRA the US did nothing to help” is LIES! Throughout the 80’s and beyond there were countless FBI/CIA ops against gunrunners from the US, the Reagan administration began increasing pressure on NORAID from 81, intelligence sharing improved steadily and joint arrests were carried out on both sides of the pond. This was not nothing now was it? There were obviously no US soldiers patrolling Belfast, this would have been foreign troops invited into GB?!? Unprecedented and hardly the same as Afghanistan, the LEGAL invasion of which was spurred by the deaths of as many people in one day as 30 years of the troubles produced. You use of “we” when describing the IRA targets is interesting, why align yourself with the British whom you clearly despise? Your description of those Arabs who “gave their blood and wealth to fight the Russian invasion of Afghanistan.” leaves your sympathies open for all to see! Don’t like it when those “honourable” muj get criticised do you?

      Retribution ends when people give up their religiously mandated quest to subjugate all and stop admiring/funding/supporting the Jihadists, this looks unlikely to happen and so the fight will go on, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in London and elsewhere. Depressing? Definitely, but I see no other future do you?

    37. Dalbir — on 14th July, 2009 at 2:24 pm  

      Dalbir — on 13th July, 2009 at 2:28 pm

      Nice to see anti-white racism left unchallenged!
      —————-

      I am a Sikh man. I am not the one running around trying to shape the whole fucking globe into my image. Look closer to home for that.

    38. Kulvinder — on 14th July, 2009 at 2:48 pm  

      Dalbir are you that nutter khalistani who was banned? I’m just curious.



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