During January, the US forces suffered 25 casualties in the Afghanistan War, according to the casualty database of the Defense Department. This is the first month since April 2010 with less than thirty casualties. January also marks the second straight month with fewer than 35 casualties. Prior to December, when there were 33 casualties, there were six straight months with more than 35 casualties (June – November 2010) [.pdf].
In addition to a decreased amount of casualties during January, the amount of soldiers wounded in action also decreased. There were 274 soldiers wounded [.pdf] in January, which is the fewest amount of WIA’s in a month since April 2010, as well as the fifth consecutive month with a decreased amount of wounded soldiers. Despite these positive indicators, January 2011 had more wounded soldiers than each of the nine other Januaries of the Afghanistan War.
The amount of casualties in January were also lower than the recent past, but the 25 casualties in January were the most casualties among each of the ten Januaries of the Afghanistan War, except for January 2010. As a result, January had fewer casualties and WIA’s than recent months, but January still does not compare well to the overall war. This fact shows how the Afghanistan War has become much more violent in the past two years, but the current violence is still not as bad as it has been.
The peak month of casualties for the entire war occurred in July 2010, when there were 65 casualties. While the amount of casualties in January were far below the peak (60% less), the summer months feature more warfare than other months. In fact, nearly half (45%) of all the casualties through the war, as well 48% of all WIA’s, have occurred during June, July, August, or September. Based on this trend of violence for the entire war, a relative decrease in violence was the expectation for not only January, but also for the next few months.
With more casualties in 2010 than any other year of the Afghanistan War, violence must remain relatively low throughout 2011, especially the summer, in order for the direction of the war to improve. President Obama recently confirmed [.pdf] the withdrawal of troops will begin in July, but the size and scope of this withdrawal is still unclear. Whether violence remains low will be a major factor in the determination of the withdrawal size. Regardless, many expect the upcoming withdrawal to be quite modest, particularly since the US has already promised to remain in Afghanistan until 2014.