Tuesday, 24 November 2009

War in Afghanistan,An Analysis

2009 started gracefully for the Taliban. Twenty policemen were ambushed and killed on New Years Day and another twenty were slain a week later. Later, a low-flying Afghan military helicopter was shot down and its entire crew of twelve soldiers and a senior Afghan general were killed.

The Afghan government, under deeply unpopular President Hamid Karzai, blamed bad weather for the crash; too embarrassing to admit a non national army like the Taliban could be responsible for the disaster.

The airplane; a Russian-made MIG-17 helicopter crashed after coming under fire after it flew at low altitude in the Adraskan District of Herat Province on 15th January 2009. The biggest loss was the death of senior general, Fazludin Ahmad Sayyar, a key commander in charge of the western region. He was one of the Afghan army’s four regional commanders in charge of the entire west of the country.

A total of 60 Afghan security personnel have thus been killed in the first 20 days of the year. Seven policemen were killed on 20th January alone. While the Coalition boasts of fewer than that number, the fact that so many Afghan troops and police have been targeted, shows the Taliban are more interested in sell outs more than white foreigners. It’s a little hard to admit for the Bush and Obama administrations to accept the Taliban have less interest in fighting or killing them.

Afghan security personnel are in comparison unafraid of combat and face to face operations, the Coalition will do everything it can to avoid them. The Taliban similarly wish to engage with those who are not frightened of actual confrontational warfare and since only the Afghan security forces are pushed to the frontline while the Coalition smiles and looks on, the main battles are between these two sides.

The Afghan National Army (ANA) is 80, 000 strong and is supported by 70, 000 police officers, making a total of 150, 000 men at arms. Private security firms employing local Afghans as guards further assist the US Coalition in their own way.

The Afghan security forces in general, are armed with modern weapons including missile launchers, mortars, aircraft, gunship helicopters, armoured tanks, jeeps, humvees, intelligence personnel and logistics support from forty foreign nations.

In addition, they have the benefit of quick treatment in the case of injuries and wear protective clothing. Unlike the Taliban, they also have the privilege of having homes to live in, cooked food and warm shelter.

The Taliban army is less than half that of their adversaries, possess no airplanes, helicopters or intelligence and wear simple shalwar kameez even in wintry conditions, have no air cover against drones and enemy fire from above and will likely die from their injuries since hospitalization and medicine is unavailable.

They use home made weapons, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), AK 47s, machetes, mortars and occasionally rocket launchers. Despite their primitive attire and limited arsenal of firearms, they exist as a formidable group.

You would think an army of this kind would last a short time against a national army. How long could they fight against forty separate nations with vastly numerical and technological superiority. After eight years, it’s the Coalition who have been the first to crack.

From their base in the mountains, the Taliban forces are as tough as ever. Karzai reiterated his call for the Taliban to enter direct talks for an elimination of the conflict, but as the US has already acknowledged, he himself does not run the show. His authority extends only to the corner of his office.

The Americans are in control; hence talks are on their terms and conditions. Nearly 100, 000 troops from other countries are also in Afghanistan. You think Karzai could just ask all of them to leave and they would gladly comply.

The current total is 62, 000 US ground, air and naval support troops and includes commando units compared to 146, 000 US soldiers already employed in Iraq. The UK has 9, 000 troops.

The vast assemblage of troops are in the south and the east along the 2, 400 kilometre border (1, 500 miles) with Pakistan. The US army is in a good position to launch much larger numbers of drones to Pakistan that way as well.

As of 2009, there have been a total 5, 129 Afghan security personnel killed including 1, 149 soldiers (in addition to a senior general), 3, 662 policemen and 339 Private security guards as well as 28 intelligence officers. The year has started terribly for the US and its Coalition in Afghanistan.

How long will it be before the Afghan Army has 2, 000 killed and the likelihood is Afghan Police fatalities is to rise to at least 4, 000 and maybe up to 5-7, 000 or possibly even 10, 000 before the war is over.

A BBC Report in 2008 said up to four Afghan Policemen are killed a day and over 50 a year. Over 800 police officers were killed in 2008, the heaviest ever during the war. 50 were also killed once in one week alone.

2008 started with Iraq as the centre of US focus in the so-called War on Terror. In May of that year, more US soldiers and Coalition servicemen were killed in Afghanistan than Iraq and has since set the pattern for an escalation of fatalities in foreign forces.

At present, if current trends continue where coalition fatalities are concerned, there will be 1100 Americans killed in Afghanistan by mid 2011 and two thousand by 2015. Coalition fatalities are likely to reach close to or up to six hundred or more by 2010. They will reach 1100 dead by 2014.

The number of US and coalition soldiers slain per year is over a hundred and the regular increase in actual numbers is up to forty annually.

In comparison to the other ‘war on terror’, Iraq currently has 260, 000 soldiers and 560, 000 policemen; a total of 820, 000 servicemen assisting the US and its Coalition against its own people.

It already has had over 10, 000 of its men slain; 6, 400 police and 4, 000 soldiers. Regular troops and police are killed with greater frequency than the US and its allies although attacks on the latter still continue with success.

The domestic front on both soils however may soon bear the brunt of the war in the coming years with the World’s aggressors on Afghan soil soon to exit swiftly. Canada plans to withdraw its 2, 500 troops in 2011 and the Netherlands will similarly recall its army within two years.

Other nations are intent on bringing their forces home due to failing finances amid the expensive and costly war with Al Qaeda and the Taliban abroad. There is little talk now of finding the elusive Osama Bin Ladin and more focus on Mullah Omar, which is ironic given that the US went into Afghanistan to arrest and apprehend the former.

In February 2009, Afghanistan saw the bloodiest fighting with 49 coalition soldiers (24 in February alone) killed in less than eight weeks into the New Year. The previous highest, 22 dead, was in 2002. On that occasion, 10 soldiers had died in January and 12 in February.

In comparison to other years to date, US and Coalition fatalities were 44 killed by May 2002, 36 by May 2006, 30 by April 2007, 33 by June 2005 and 40 by August 2003.

In January 2009, 25 coalition soldiers were killed and in February, 24 soldiers were killed; the highest singular death tolls recorded to date in Afghanistan during the so-called ‘war on terror’ for those months. In comparison to last year, by March 2008, there had been a total of 21 killed and this rose to 40 by April 2008.

By March 2009, 77 troops were killed to date (28 in March alone). By May 2008, the figure was 54 killed and by June 2008, it was 77 killed in total in comparison. By July, it was well over a hundred.

The Coalition celebrated the death of its 450th soldier in March 2009, Coalition fatalities are 597 killed to date.

Afghan security personnel in contrast have been struck harder in 2009. They include 438 police and 228 soldiers in addition to 109 Private military contractors (all Afghan PMCs) making a grand total of 761 men slain. In 2008, the Afghan army lost 274 soldiers, while the police lost 871 men and 107 Private military contractors were killed.

The heaviest casualties were 71 killed in January (55 police and 16 soldiers) compared to 51 slain in February and 66 killed in March.

Among those killed in the heaviest and bloodiest Junes ever in this war was the police chief of Kandahar. He was just the most significant of the 25 policemen slain in ambushes and face to face combat missions in Afghanistan.

Another Afghan police commander was killed along with his bodyguard the following week in a separate attack. This brings to 2 the number of Afghan commanders slain in the war.

October 2009 witnessed 281 Americans and 175 Coalition troops (including 92 British soldiers) killed making a total of 459 troops slain. For the full conflict 927 US and 597 Coalition soldiers were slain with a grand total of 1, 528 killed.

This makes a total of 44 US soldiers killed in July and 51 in August 2009 while 77 US and Coalition soldiers were killed in August 2009. September 2009 also saw 70 soldiers killed. October 2009 saw 59 US soldiers and 13 Coalition soldiers killed, making a total of 74 slain.

A total of 19 US and Coalition soldiers were killed in the first week of July 2009, the heaviest casualty rate for some time and this was followed by 18 killed in the first week of August 2009.

The figure of US losses for 2009 is still however less than Iraq despite improvements in security for American military personnel. By June the US recorded 101 killed compared to 95 in Afghanistan. However by early July, it was 112 killed in Afghanistan and 108 in Iraq. The tides had turned.

In July itself, the total number of US and Coalition soldiers killed was 76; an increase of 46 from the previous July in 2008. It was 76 in July 2009, 77 in August, 70 in September and 74 in October making a total of 297 killed in just 4 months.

This is somewhat ironic given that 91 US and Coalition troops had been slain in total for the first four months of the year and 77 in the first three months of 2009, while 295 US and Coalition soldiers died in the whole of 2008.

Also in July 2009, the Afghan government announced that six to ten policemen are killed every day since March this year with nearly 50 killed in one week alone.
Some countries have a risk of extinction; those with fewer than 1000 soldiers in Afghanistan and are used in combat and not support operations or protection of safe areas.

Denmark has 700 troops (and 25 killed), Sweden has 430 troops (and 2 killed), NZ has 120 troops (and none killed), Estonia has 40 troops (and 6 killed), Lithuania has 40 troops (and 1 killed), Spain has 780 troops (and 26 killed), Norway has 485 troops (and 4 killed) and Turkey has 730 troops (and 2 killed).

Among other nations, France, Germany and Italy have a high concentration of forces spread into several pockets of Afghanistan. France has up to 4, 000 soldiers, Germany and Italy over 2, 500 servicemen each while the Netherlands has 1, 700 men.

Spain meanwhile lost 62 men in an air crash unrecorded in official statistics (the highest ever singular loss for any country during the war) while France suffered ten fatalities in one ambush alone in August 2008.

Italy suffered its worst attack on September 2009 when the Mujahideen struck of the former’s two military vehicles. The masterminded assault left six vehicles burned including an Italian humvee and resulted in the deaths of six soldiers and four wounded.

The irony of it all was the attack occurred in a heavily guarded part of Kabul. As of September 2009, Italy has lost 22 soldiers since 2001 (compared to 33 in Iraq). In comparison Germany has had 34 soldiers slain while France has similarly lost 36 and the Netherlands has lost 21 men.

October 2009 also witnessed the greatest singular loss of life among Coalition forces when eight US and two Afghan soldiers were killed in combat with the Taliban
soldiers. The assault left the Taliban to annex the area and the US army to withdraw in humiliation.

UK Involvement

Sometime during the early phase of the war, the UK lost 14 soldiers in a single air accident. All men on board were killed instantly and the event was seen as the worst non-combat related carnage sustained ever in the war.

On another occasion, 7 members of the same regiment were slain; this time via a successful assault on a British military convoy by a lone Taliban soldier. One British survivor lived to tell the tale (and later to leave the army as well).

In late September 2009, an Afghan police officer shot and killed five British soldiers in a rare attack among allies. 11 others were injured in the same incident and some returned fire. Despite the gunfire against him that day, the officer escaped with his life sustaining no injuries on the way.

The officer had been screened a week before the shooting spree and cleared to join the police. The Afghan officer, who was not a member of the Taliban army, was it is claimed by the Afghan government, a sympathiser to the Taliban. A week later, two more British soldiers were killed in quick succession.

The British, it is claimed by some, control the air, while the Taliban are masters of the ground in Helmand, where most of the former’s military bases and soldiers are resident at the expense of the Afghan State.

9, 000 British troops are presently on patrol in Afghanistan. The UK Army lost its 150th soldier in Afghanistan in March 2009, thanks to a roadside explosion and its 200th in August the same year.

98 British soldiers have been killed in 2009 alone compared to just five in the first 4 years of war in Afghanistan. The 84th fatality in September 2009 brought the UK to 400 killed in both Iraq and Afghanistan combined since 2001.

In fact when the US recorded 99 fatalities and the Coalition similarly lost 31 men in 2005, the UK suffered only 1 death the whole year. It was largely a war against the US until 2005, but the UK remained untouched.

It was in 2006, the following year; more bodies were being flown back to Britain for burial. 39 British soldiers were killed that year, 42 in 2007 and 51 in 2008 making a total of 132 by 2009.

In 2009 itself, the British army similarly disclosed that 15 British soldiers were killed in a span of just 10 days, in early July. By late July 21 UK soldiers had been killed. They currently have a full total of 235 killed as of November 2009 with 98 slain in 2009 alone. This is compared to 86 among its Coalition allies.

Also in 2009, the British army for the first time in the war, has further lost more soldiers than the Coalition combined. Prior to 2009, Coalition losses were always 20 to 30 men more that British deaths.

It is also only narrowly behind the Coalition in terms of total fatalities since 2001. British forces have had 234 men slain while Coalition losses are 366 dead; a difference of only 138 men.

The last time the British army had as many fatalities was during the ‘Malaya Emergency’; the official name given by the UK for an actual independence war against them that lasted for twelve years from 1948-1960.

519 British soldiers were killed in that ‘emergency’ which forcibly required the UK to ‘reluctantly’ use Agent Orange and Napalm (nuclear weapons) in addition to decapitation against ‘terrorists’, the name given to anyone who wanted to be free from British rule.

In more recent years, the UK disclosed they had 256 killed in the war against Argentina in 1982. That war lasted for less than 2 months and left more Argentines dead than Britons. Not all of the Argentines had been killed in combat; some of them had been POWs and had been shot in the head while under custody.

2001 and after (Afghan security forces)

In the early phase of the war, the Afghan police suffered least with 23 killed in the first three years. The bloodthirsty US-supported Northern Alliance Rebel army meanwhile lost approximately 200 men in the opening year.

At the time, the Afghan army were the rebels opposed to the government, to Shariah law, to the implementation of Islamic order in general and officially were the Northern Alliance; an amalgamation of warlords, fortune seekers, bloodthirsty gangs, lawless tribes, drug barons, criminal organisations and atheists.

Together, they had accumulated an appalling human rights record with complete disregard to justice, national or religious unity and were interested in making money alone. This was the group the Americans were attracted to support.

The US administration sought to overthrow the Taliban administration; a standing government in office and replace it with one acceptable to itself with American-styled interests and secular legislation.

The Northern Alliance was its answer. Hamid Karzai, an oil director, not a career politician, assumed the Presidency and under him, opium production, completely and totally eliminated under the Taliban government, returned and flourishes to this day.

Today, the Afghan government has authority over only segments of its population and is in greater dismemberment than the one the US invaded in 2001. Crime, warlord rule, fear and anarchy in general is greater now than ever. This is the state the US created and supports.

In the aftermath of the 2001 invasion, the Afghan army itself lost only 17 men in the next two years. All was well it seemed until 2004. 116 soldiers were slain that year followed by 107 dead in 2005 and 114 in the next two years. 337 men lost in three years. The army has still however to exceed the 2, 000 mark in the number of deaths recorded to date.

The Afghan police force in comparison suffered an even worse fate beginning in 2005 with 684 dead, then 1, 019 dead and then 868 dead, a staggering 2, 571 slain in just three years.

In August 2009, Taliban forces defeated and drove out Afghan army units from three pashtun-dominated districts in the north. Kunduz and Baghlan-I-Jadid, the two northern provinces now virtually in Taliban control, is home to Hungarian and German coalition forces.

This means the remaining seven provinces in the north are likely to fall soon, which will disrupt the supply routes for military convoys arming coalition forces on the ground.

In September, the top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, Stanley McChrystal, warned of ‘failure’ against the Mujahideen. He said a fresh strategy and additional forces were needed to defeat the Muslims. His comments made him the second Coalition commander to echo these fears and request immediate assistance.

In October 2009, the Afghan government announced an additional 4, 000 men had responded to the Declaration of Jihad against the US, its puppet government and the European-dominated alliance and joined the Taliban from abroad.

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