50 US & NATO Troops Killed in Afghanistan in Past Week

Another US helicopter got into trouble on Sunday, and had to make a hard landing in the eastern Paktia province, though no one aboard was hurt. It may have been forced down by Taliban fire.

Seven US & NATO troops have been killed in fighting in Afghanistan in the past 48 hours, on top of the 30 US soldiers, 7 Afghan troops and an interpreter who were killed when a Chinook helicopter went down, likely shot down by Taliban, in Wardak on Friday.

Two of those killed Sunday were French, and 7 French soldiers were wounded.

Also on Sunday, US troops recovering the crash wreckage in Wardak ran into heavy fire from local Taliban and there was a clash near the site.

Altogether, 50 US & NATO troops have already been killed in August, and 383 have been killed this year.

No wonder that Afghanistan’s new US ambassador, Ryan Crocker, cautioned last week against a “rush for the exits,” as Tom Englehart noted. In fact, most NATO allies have run or are running for the exits, as it become increasingly clear that the Afghanistan effort is likely endless. Canada’s combat mission has ended, Holland is out, and France, Poland and Britain have announced plans to get out over the next three years. (For the current distribution of foreign troops in Afghanistan, see the ISAF web page, though it hasn’t removed the Canadian flag yet.)

The spike in troop deaths comes in the wake of an extremely successful Taliban campaign of assassination in July. They killed the de facto ruler of Qandahar province, Ahmad Wali Karzai, the half-brother of President Hamid Karzai and a major power broker for the Kabul government. Then they attacked his funeral, as well, killing 4 people with a suicide bombing. Then they assassinated Jan Mohammad Khan, President Karzai’s chief official for tribal relations (i.e. he would have been trying to turn the Pashtun tribes against the Taliban), along with a member of parliament. Then on July 27, the mayor of Qandahar city, Ghulam Haider Hamidi, was assassinated by the Taliban.

Although the Afghanistan war receives little coverage in general, it is astonishing that there has been no major piece in an American news journal that points out that the Taliban have wiped out the pro-Karzai power elite of Qandahar in the past month and are killing US troops in record numbers.

All these Taliban advances are occurring in the wake of the major US counter-insurgency campaign in Qandahar province, Operation Hamkari [‘Working Together’] of fall 2010.

Counter-insurgency was never very likely to succeed in Afghanistan, given the size of the country and its problems, and given the relatively small amount of resources committed to it by Washington. One measure of whether David Petraeus, the incoming head of the CIA, is a straight shooter will be whether he is able to report to his boss that the strategy was flawed even though he was an architect of it.

Since Obama is taking out some 30,000 troops over the next year, the window for counter-insurgency is closing (it is troop-intensive).

In fact, the US and NATO are increasingly simply withdrawing from whole provinces and handing them over to Karzai’s army and police, ready or not. As the DoD say last week:

‘ Mehtar lam is one of seven areas being turned over to Afghan security forces in ceremonies around the country this week, including the provinces of Bamyan, Panjshir and Kabul (except for the Surobi District), and the cities of Herat in the west, Mazar-i-Sharif in the north, Lashkar Gah in the country’s southern Helmand Province. ‘

Me, I should have thought the turnover of major places like Kabul, Herat, Mazar-i Sharif and Lashkar Gah to the Karzai security forces would have been headline news. But not only do few in the US seem to care about the news from the Afghanistan front, the appetite of the US public to prosecute the struggle has almost disappeared, given the poor economy, debt problems, the killing of Bin Laden, and the corrupt character of the Karzai government. It is clear that gradually, the lights are being turned off on the forgotten war, which is so forgotten that few in the US (the major power prosecuting the war) are even noticing that they are being extinguished.

18 Responses

  1. And tell me again…why are we at war with the Taliban? I somewhat understood the logic of going in and retaliating against al Qaeda, but the Taliban has never attacked the US until we invaded and began occupying their space.

    I fear the reason we are in the god forsaken goat farmed named Afghanistan is because of the military suppliers, who, it was announced last week are supplying $2 parts for $600 and diesel fuel at $400 per gallon, have captured the hearts and minds of our politicians with their campaign contributions.Secondly, Afghanistan shares a border with Iran, the next neocon target.

  2. I agree with pretty much everything you said except this emphasis on record numbers of ISAF troops being killed, 50 already in August. It was an unlucky coincidence that 30 troops were on the chopper. If it had only been 4 or 5, then the August count would be half as much. Not saying that this leaves me relieved, but it’s a statistical anomaly.

    I really don’t understand the negative undertone I always detect towards Gen. Petraeus. He didn’t start the war, didn’t argue for it. Sure he fights just like hundreds of thousands of others and tries to win, but he doesn’t measure victory by the number of enemy killed, but rather wants to help the Afghan people so that we can leave. Don’t blame the soldiers who fight, blame the people who sent him there/keep him there. I really think those left of center are reading the guy wrong.

    • The point was not about Gen. Petraeus, to whom I think I’ve been fair, but about the counter-insurgency policy. It was a bad idea, and it has not worked in any meaningful sense, and needs to be put behind us.

      I do worry that putting the architect of the policy in charge of the intelligence agency that should be second-guessing the policy was unwise. Which is why I say the test will be whether Director Petraeus is now capable on putting on his analyst hat and leaving the uniform behind. I’m not saying he is incapable of doing that, in fact, he may well be up to that challenge. I’m saying that is the test of whether he is.

  3. Afghanistan is a US war that never should have been. Known as “the graveyard of empires,” Afghanistan has been swallowing up the USA for ten years with the needless deaths of brave soldiers and innocent civilians, multi-trillion dollar war profiteering (Halliburton, etc.), and a corrupt government that takes billions of US dollars every week and disappears out of the country with it stuffed in suitcases.

    Before the USA went bankrupt there, Russia did, and although Russia left after nine years, we’re still there. The first of two pointless disastrous bankrupting wars launched by GWBush—for oil.

    I disagree that Americans don’t want to read about this war. Americans are angry about the fact that this war hasn’t been front page news. Not covering it in the news has only served to extend the needlessness for years.

    We have a broken MSM, a greedy MIC that Eisenhower warned us about, and a congress that votes to keep funding this catastrophe year after year. I thought this was one thing President Obama would do—bring all the troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq. This is, for me, the most crushingly disappointing part of Obama’s presidency. His inability to end the wars. And in fact, he’s increased them, by adding Libya to Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan, and Obama has swelled the MIC budget, earning him the title, “GWBush 2.”

    Afghanistan has been bankrupting, pointless and tragic. The moment US troops leave, the Taliban will return. They already are returning. What has this all been about? Oil. It’s long since time for clean green energy and an end to oil, coal and nuclear power. And it’s long since time for peace.

  4. You wrote:

    “No wonder that Afghanistan’s new US ambassador, Ryan Crocker …”

    Shouldn’t that be:

    “No wonder that the new US ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker …” ?

  5. […] Afghanistan: the Disappearing WarBy admin on August 8, 2011 in Af-Pak Although the Afghanistan war receives little coverage in general, it is astonishing that there has been no major piece in an American news journal that points out that the Taliban have wiped out the pro-Karzai power elite of Qandahar in the past month and are killing US troops in record numbers.- Informed Comment […]

  6. All that’s really changed since Petraeus left Afghanistan is the matter of “Strategic Communications.”
    Under his leadership, the US spent about $200 million a year to plant false stories of success in the American press, propagandizing the voters and Congress. That seems to have stopped.

  7. In addition to this war being forgotten in the USA, many Americans believe falsely that the war is being “won” – when it’s becoming apparent that counter-insurgency and other military tactics have not succeeded in their goals. (I’m not certain of the accuracy of the polls by this site, but Rasmussen has a monthly poll on the percentage of Americans who believe that the USA and its allies are “winning” the War on Terror: link to rasmussenreports.com …would be interesting to see the figures from an early August poll.)

    Doubtful that Petraeus will admit that counter-insurgency has failed – he would more likely say that it has had “some success” (as he basically did in the aftermath of Osama bin Laden’s death – see this ABC News article: link to abcnews.go.com ).

  8. Question: why is the withdrawal by Poland, France, and Britain over three years “running for the exits,” while the American policy, which includes an announced withdrawal over that same three-year period, is described as “increasingly clear that the Afghanistan effort is likely endless?”

    • Because Washington has repeatedly made it clear that 2014 is not an end date for its troops in Afghanistan.

  9. Please note there is no such country as Holland. North and South Holland comprise two of the districts of the Netherlands.

    Its use is akin to people outside the United States referring to the Deep South as America – in other words, a synecdoche.

    • Yes, and there are no Quakers, they are the Society of Friends; and there are no Wahhabis, just Monotheists, etc., etc. Sorry, people don’t get to decide what they’re called, especially if they insist on long words with definite articles that violate all the desiderata of newspaper editors.

      • I do understand the American difficulty with polysyllabic words. I also understand the American fixation with showing scant respect to other countries even, it seems, those who have assisted the United States in this insane adventure.

        • There are more syllables in “the United States of America” than there are are in “the Netherlands,” you arrogant pseudo-intellectual.

          Juan, would it be ok if I provided this elitist little poseur with a demonstration of American facility with polysyllabic words?

  10. The headline above containing the deaths of 30 Americans aboard the helicopter, is causing quote a stir in certain circles, namely why were they all on one Chinook? Also, weren’t they the ones who “killed” OBL? A mystery indeed!

  11. Troops abandoning provinces wholesale, helicopters shot down, the country bankrupted by a never-ending war…change Obama’s name to Gorbachev and suddenly its 1987 all over again.

  12. The Irony… The Irony… The Irony.

    I wonder who is providing these new helicopter killers, could it be the the R…

    V

  13. The unnecessary death of all these NATO troops recently is yet another reason why the War in Afghanistan needs to end immediately. The Be2021 campaign, led by Americans for Informed Democracy, is dedicated to ending violent wars such as the one in Afghanistan with the goal of establishing a more peaceful, just and sustainable world by the 20th anniversary of 9/11 in 2021. Declare your vision for 2021 today at link to be2021.org! -Ian

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