From Sunday’s NYT. They’ve been doing this for years. Take a moment to reflect.
A Year in Iraq and Afghanistan
By IAN LIVINGSTON, ALICIA CHENG and SARAH GEPHART
IN 2010, the United States and its allies continued to shift the military focus from Iraq and to Afghanistan. American troop levels in Iraq fell by half, from more than 100,000 troops in January to under 50,000. In Afghanistan, a surge of mainly United States troops brought numbers to roughly 140,000, from near 100,000 at the beginning of the year. As shown in the chart (based on data from the Pentagon, icasualties.organd American allies), in 2010 there were 696 fatalities in Afghanistan and 56 in Iraq.
The death total in Iraq was the lowest of any year in the war by a significant margin, down by 85 from 2009. Nearly two-thirds of the deaths there were not related to combat, and most of the hostile deaths occurred in isolated incidents. Though overall violence levels in Iraq have not improved markedly over the last year, they at least seem fairly stable as Iraqi security forces take on more of the burden.
The fighting in parts of Afghanistan was intense, and 198 more allied troops died there than in 2009. Many of the fatalities occurred in Helmand Province, where some 15,000 American and NATO troops began a major offensive in February; homemade bombs and small-arms fire caused the vast majority of the casualties. While 2010 finished as the deadliest year of the war effort thus far, there is no question that Afghan and Western troops have made great strides in stabilizing the insecure provinces in the south and east of the country.
Ian Livingston is a senior research assistant at the Brookings Institution in Washington. Alicia Cheng and Sarah Gephart are partners at mgmt. design in Brooklyn.