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home : news : news May 24, 2016

8/3/2010 10:59:00 AM
Under Obama, American deaths in Afghanistan soar
Monthly U.S. death rate is four times higher under Obama than Bush

Richard Moore
Investigative Reporter


News Analysis

As a consensus builds that American troops are struggling mightily against the Taliban, if not losing the war outright in Afghanistan, the death toll is soaring, and it has been since Barack Obama became president.

On Friday, three more American soldiers died, bringing the number of fatalities to 66 for July, the deadliest month on record in the war.

In June, 60 American troops were killed. That had been the bloodiest month.

The escalating deaths match the escalation of the war under the Obama administration. As of Friday, according to icasualities.org, there have been 1,212 American military fatalities in Afghanistan, while total coalition military deaths stand at 1,976.

The Pentagon's tally was slightly different as of Friday morning, but not much, showing 1,197 U.S. military deaths.

The count is mounting under the Obama administration. In the 18 months Obama has been president, 557 Americans have died. That compares to 655 U.S. deaths in the eight years of the Bush administration.

Compared another way, an average of 6.8 deaths occurred per month during the Bush years; the monthly average during Obama's tenure is 30.9, more than four times higher.

What's more, the count does not include hundreds of contractor deaths in the country. As Kristina Wong of ABC News reported last week, 521 contractors have been killed, 332 of those in the last year, an increase over the previous year of 175 percent.

And that's not the entire list, Wong states, only the list of those for whom an insurance claim was filed.

Obama's goals questioned

The grim statistics come as thousands of leaked documents show American troops struggling on the ground - raw data confirming the view of most observers - and as an increasing number of congressional Democrats are speaking out against the war.

On July 27, though the U.S. House of Representatives passed the administration's request for an additional $33 billion to fund the war for another year, 102 Democrats revolted and voted against the measure, joining 12 Republicans in opposition.

A year ago, when the House voted on war funding, only 32 Democrats opposed the bill.

A year ago, when the House voted on war funding, only 32 Democrats opposed the bill.

Wisconsin Democrats David Obey (7th District) and Steve Kagen (8th District) both voted against the measure.

Democrat Tammy Baldwin (2nd District) joined Obey and Kagen in voting no, while Democrat Ron Kind (3rd District) sided with Wisconsin Republicans Tom Petri (6th District), F. James Sensenbrenner (5th District), and Paul Ryan (1st District) in supporting the measure.

With opposition growing, many Democrats are questioning whether the war can be won, and whether the administration is really trying to win.

Indeed, in July 2009, the president, talking to ABC News, refused to phrase the war's goal in terms of winning it.

"I'm always worried about using the word 'victory,' because, you know, it invokes this notion of Emperor Hirohito coming down and signing a surrender to MacArthur," Obama said.

So what is the goal? It's about preventing an attack on America, the president said.

"We're not dealing with nation states at this point," he told ABC. "We're concerned with Al Qaeda and the Taliban, Al Qaeda's allies. So when you have a non-state actor, a shadowy operation like Al Qaeda, our goal is to make sure they can't attack the United States."

The problem with that analysis, some war critics contend, is that Al Qaeda is not in Afghanistan, which even the military has acknowledged. Indeed, Gen. David Petraeus, then head of the U.S. Central Command, said as far back as May 2009 that Al Qaeda was no longer operating in the country.

Critics say the American government should be fighting Al Qaeda where Al Qaeda is.

Still, war supporters respond, withdrawal from the country would open the door for Al Qaeda's return, a view shared by Obama's ally, new British prime minister David Cameron.

"Today I am advised that the threat from Al Qaeda from Afghanistan and Pakistan has reduced," Cameron told parliament in June, as reported by Reuters. "But I am also advised that if it were not for the current presence of UK and international forces, Al Qaeda would return to Afghanistan and the threat to the UK would rise."

However, the Obama administration's goal for Afghanistan does not stop just with preventing the return of Al Qaeda.

Though the president didn't say it, it's about defeating the Taliban as a goal in and of itself, not just because the Taliban's rise to power would guarantee Al Qaeda's return. In that vein, the goal seems neoconservative - that is, to build a nation that embraces America's values.

Here's how Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke, special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, put it in testimony before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on July 14 of this year.

"During President Karzai's recent visit, President Obama reiterated that our support for Afghan-led reintegration and reconciliation is based on a shared commitment to full transparency and basic principles," Holbrooke said. "Insurgents must: (1) cut ties to al-Qaeda; (2) cease violence against the Afghan state; and (3) accept the Afghan constitution, including its protections for human rights and women's equality. Our position on this last point is unambiguous. Afghan-led peace efforts must not be a vehicle for reversing the progress of Afghan women and girls since 2001."

And here's how the Washington Post put it in an editorial last year:

"As long as the Taliban were a dominant force in Afghanistan, Pakistan would be in danger of succumbing to radical forces," the Post stated. "In the likely event that Afghanistan was plagued by an endless civil war - as it was during the Taliban's last ascendancy - the country would again become a place of proxy conflict among Pakistan, India, Iran and other nations. Not those countries, but the United States would be blamed for the horrendous humanitarian cost - including the brutalization of women that would occur wherever the Taliban gained authority."

So, as both the Post urged and Holbrooke embraced, the war is more than about fighting terror, it's also about fighting the Taliban and the values it represents.

However noble that thought, whether it represents a proper role for America is up for increasing debate, and is driving some Democratic opposition, such as Tom Andrews, a former member of Congress from Maine.

"President Obama's decision to nation-build in Afghanistan in the midst of the worst economic recession since the Great Depression is likely to produce a new Misery Index for Americans: The escalating numbers of dead and wounded American soldiers in Afghanistan plus the likely high level of unemployed Americans at home," Andrews wrote in The Huffington Post. "For Congressional Democrats, the Misery Index could add up to big trouble at the polls in November 2010."

Others believe simply that the war can't be won, and they point to the Russian experience as historical evidence and now to Wikileaks documents as present proof.

Meanwhile, for better or worse, the war rages on, now in its ninth year. The Soviet war lasted 10 years, before the defeated Soviet military finally withdrew in 1989.

Richard Moore can be reached at rmmoore1@verizon.net.



Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, August 14, 2010
Article comment by: Jeannie Jackson

How a president can wage war while allowing the people here to go without shelter and food is beyond me. I learned at the age of five that you treat people as you want to be treated--next door in Pakistan 2.5 million are effected by flooding--why can't we just step next door and assist them for the $7 billion we spend each month in war--our grossly antiquated system of war is no longer needed or wanted--too bad we can't ask the 330 troops that committed suicide last year.

Posted: Sunday, August 8, 2010
Article comment by: Jim Miterko

Since President Obama was sworn in, the far right wing of the Republican Party has wished for nothing but failure for him. The problem is that if our President fails, our country fails.
Richard Moore seems to forget that when Bush took offfice he had a trillion plus dollar surplus, we were not entrenched in two wars in the middle east and the country was not on the brink of financial collapse.
Afghan is not President Obama's war--he inherited it. The reason casualties have been increasing is that the Bush administration did not provide the resorses to effectively wage that campaighn.
If Mr. Moore wants to compare body counts, then how about the sensless deaths in Irag for a fabricated war that was Bush's personal vendetta.

Oh, by the way, for all you Republican hawks out there, remember that it was on Bush's watch that this country was attacked on 9/11. So much for the great protector.


Posted: Saturday, August 7, 2010
Article comment by: Bruce Van Hoozen

Dannyboy: You blamed Bush for the war in Afghanistan and the economy but in defense of President Obama's economic failures and troubles in Afghanistan you write, "instead of assigning blame blah, blah, blah." You sure are good at slinging mud but you can't take it, eh?

Obama said his stimulus would keep unemployment under 8% and it hit a high of 10.2 and is now stuck at 9.5. That is his fault and not anyone elses.

He said we would be out of Iraq in March of '08 and we are still there. That is his broken promise. He said he would close Gitmo in a year, and it has not happened. He said if the Illinois senate had a vote he would have voted against the war in Iraq. He and Biden said the war was lost and voted against the surge. The surge worked and they were handed a war all but won. Now that he has kept from snatching defeat from the jaws of victory they are claiming Iraq will be their greatest triumph. That would be like Truman taking credit for victory in WWII and ignoring FDR.

He said Afganistan was the "good war" for that is where Osama was located. That makes this is his war, the war he wanted and got. I hope we win, and glory to him if we prevail, but failure can not be blamed on anyone but the Obama administration.

President Obama has been in office for a year and a half. His approval rating has hit an all time low of 41% and democrats may lose both the senate and house because we know that this is his economy and his war.

For all his excuses, finger pointing, scapegoating, and passing the buck back to Bush, I offer the following:

"Losers offer excuses, winners offer solutions. Losers blame others, winners accept responsibliity. Excuses are the nails that build the house of failure."

We don't need anymore excuses and blaming Bush. What we need is real leadership. With the new Obama taxes that are going to be kicking in come January, I only see things getting worst. And when things do get worst one will want to hear that it's all Bush's fault.


Posted: Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Article comment by: Dan Topping

Yes, the American body count has increased recently in Afghanistan. We have increased the number of troops in the country, and the nature of the war has changed to one in which we are more actively seeking out and destroying Taliban and pro-Al Qaeda forces. The unfortunate side effect of this is the increased casualty count.

It's hardly correct to somehow infer that Obama's leadership is directly tied to the casualty rate. This is a war that was inherited from George Bush - as was the current economic state of our nation. Perhaps if we had initially centered our sights on Afghanistan instead of chasing phanton WMD in Iraq, we would have already achieved a greater degree of victory in Iraq.

It's understandable that Americans are feeling beat down and put upon. We're mired in a war that's almost as lengthy as the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan - which, by the way, we opposed by helping the Mujahadeen, which then morphed into the Taliban. We are in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. However, if the Obama administration had not made the decisions that they had on both fronts, our current situation could have been much worse than it is now.

It's easy to blame the current situation on the sitting President and his administration. What we need to remember is how we got into this mess, and we need our elected officials to work together to help us emerge from this war and from our economic famine. Instead of assigning blame, what say we charge those in Washington to stop their bickering and get on with it?

Dan Topping
Chicago Ridge, IL




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