Attrition: Taking The Measure of Afghan Violence


August 15, 2008:Casualties are increasing in Afghanistan, approaching levels only seen before in Iraq. Last year, foreign troops in Afghanistan lost about 300 dead per 100,000 troops. In Iraq, from 2004-7, the deaths among foreign troops ran at 500-600 per 100,000 per year. Since al Qaeda admitted defeat there earlier this year, the U.S. death rate in Iraq has dropped to about300 dead per 100,000 troops per year. Meanwhile, the rate in Afghanistan is headed for 400-300 dead per 100,000 troops. For Afghan troops and police, the death rate last year was about 700 dead per 100,000, and this year is headed for 800 or more. The death rate for U.S. troops during Vietnam, Korea and World War II, was over 1,500. Better body armor, tactics, training, weapons and medical care have all contributed to that.

There are 38,000 NATO and 34,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.But 15,000 of the Americans serve in The NATO ISAF (International Security Assistance Force), giving it a strength of 53,000, plus the non-NATO U.S. force of 19,000. That's 72,000 foreign troops.

Since late 2001, there have been 918 foreign troops killed in Afghanistan (mostly from combat, but also from accidents and disease. Most of these (572) were American. The others were; Britain-115 , Canada-90, Germany-26, Spain-23 , Netherlands-16, Others- 76.

In Iraq, the civilian death rate has averaged about 150 per 100,000 people per year. A century ago, during the four year Philippine Insurrection, civilians died at the rate of about 600 per 100,000 population per year. As in Iraq, many of those deaths were the result of local factions fighting each other. During the Vietnam war, the civilian death rate from military operations was about 400 per 100,000 per year, and, again, a lot of these were due to Vietnamese fighting each other.

Up through the Summer of 2005 in Iraq, the death rate was running at about 45 dead per 100,000 population per year. This is far higher than the usual rate in Middle Eastern countries (under 10 per 100,000). Well, most of the time. During civil wars and insurrections, the rate has spiked to over a hundred per 100,000, sometimes for several years in a row. During Saddam's long reign, the Iraqi death rate from democide (the government killing its own people) averaged over 100 per 100,000 a year. This does not include the several hundred thousand killed during the war with Iran in the 1980s.

In Afghanistan, the death rate for civilians, mostly from Taliban violence, has been 6-7 dead per 100,000 people, in the last two years.




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