During November, the US forces suffered 53 casualties in the Afghanistan War, according to the casualty database of the Defense Department. This marks the sixth consecutive month there has been 42 or more US casualties in Afghanistan. Prior to this six month stretch, there were only 3 other months of the entire Afghanistan War, which began in October 2001, with more than 40 US casualties. In other words, of the 110 months in Afghanistan, there has only been 9 months with 40 or more US casualties, yet 6 of those months have been the last 6 months (June – November 2010). The 3 remaining months with 40 or more US casualties occurred in 2009 – July, August, and October. These statistics indicate the ground conditions of the Afghanistan War have become more violent in the past 18 months.
Also, the addition of the November 2010 data brings the total amount of US casualties in 2010 to 472 – the greatest amount of US casualties during a year for the entire Afghanistan War. The year with the second most US casualties occurred in 2009, when there were 311 casualties [.pdf]. This not only means the past 2 years of the Afghanistan War have been the deadliest, but also that the war is becoming even deadlier.
Though, before viewing the casualty rate as the determining factor of the ground conditions in Afghanistan, there are at least 3 other aspects to consider. As has been discussed in the past, with the influx of 30,000 surge troops completed in August, the most troops to date are in the country, which increases the likelihood of US casualties. Second, the US forces are “clearing areas that have never been cleared before,” particularly in Southern and Eastern Afghanistan, where the Taliban is the strongest, according to the Defense Department. Third, working with Afghanistan’s allied forces is difficult, due to problems such as illiteracy, unskilled technicians, corruption, and even the lack of a promotion system for soldiers. These 3 above considerations attempt to explain how the casualty rate could be rising without the ground conditions becoming as worse as the casualty statistics indicate.
Another statistic to consider is the amount of US soldiers wounded in action. There have been 9,256 US soldiers wounded during the entire Afghanistan War. Of these soldiers, 4,481 were wounded in 2010. This means almost half (48%) of the wounded US soldiers have occurred this year. During 2009, there were 2,144 soldiers wounded. Therefore, over 70% of all the wounded soldiers have occurred in the past 2 years. Similar to the casualty rate, the amount of wounded soldiers has also recently surged.
Meanwhile, President Obama is scheduled to address the nation in 10 days about a review of the US strategy in Afghanistan. Yesterday, President Obama surprised the troops in Afghanistan with a special visit. Without doubt, the upcoming review of the US strategy in Afghanistan is undergoing a high level of scrutiny.