General: Expect more
Afghan war casualties
June saw highest civilian deaths of year
ISAF/Staff Sgt. Bradley Lail
Gen. David Petraeus, second from right, at checkpoint in Kandahar, Afghanistan, July 9, days after replacing Gen. Stanley McChrystal as commander of U.S.-led forces in country.
BY CINDY JAQUITH
Since taking charge of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan July 4, Gen. David Petraeus has worked to restore confidence in the imperialist war there, while pursuing the same course that Gen. Stanley McChrystal had followed. McChrystal was forced to resign after publication of a Rolling Stone interview in which he ridiculed figures in the administration of Barack Obama.
June saw the highest number of NATO fatalities since the war began in 2001103 dead, 60 of them U.S. soldiers. The combined total of U.S. troop deaths in May and June came to 8 percent of all U.S. fatalities since 2001.
The number of Afghan civilians dying in the war in June212is the highest of the year, according to a report recently released by the Afghanistan Rights Monitor (ARM). 2010 has been the worst year since the demise of the Taliban regime in late 2001 in terms of violence against civilians, the group stated. Some 1,074 civilians were killed and more than 1,500 wounded in the first six months of the year, up from 1,059 in the same period last year.
ARM attributes 61 percent of the civilian deaths to Taliban attacks. The remaining 39 percent are from U.S., NATO, Afghan army, progovernment militias, and private security forces.
While saying that the 94 civilians killed in air strikes in the last six months is a reduction by about half from last year, the report charges U.S. and NATO troops with indiscriminate and allegedly deliberate shooting
on civilian people and cars and violent and barbaric intrusions and raids.
Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, the number two U.S. commander in Afghanistan, predicted at a news briefing July 7 that the carnage will get worse. We are going into places that have been significant support bases for the Taliban for the past several years
. And theyre going to fight hard for those, and thats why we expect the casualties to go up.
One of those places is the Sangin valley in Helmand Province. About 1,000 British troops have been stationed there, but UK defense secretary Liam Fox announced June 7 that they will be leaving. U.S. Marines will replace them in October. Of the 314 British soldiers who have been killed since the war began, more than 100 were killed in Sangin.
100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan
By the end of August, there will be 100,000 U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, more than three times the number of U.S. forces on the ground in early 2009, Petraeus told the Senate Armed Forces Committee June 29. They wont be leaving soon, he added. Reaffirming Obamas recent remarks, Petraeus said that the July 2011 deadline for beginning withdrawal of U.S. forces will mark the beginning of a process, not the date when the U.S. heads for the exits and turns out the lights.
When all of NATOs additional forces are deployed there will be more than 50,000 troops from 45 other countries fighting in Afghanistan, bringing the total number of foreign soldiers stationed there to 150,000.
Responding to issues underlying the McChrystal forced resignation, Petraeus sent a letter to all NATO troops in Afghanistan July 4. He called for a team effort to achieve unity of effort with our diplomatic, international civilian, and Afghan partners, a reference to disparaging remarks about civilian U.S. government figures made by the deposed general and his aides in the Rolling Stone interview.
The letter also addressed widely publicized criticism voiced by some troops of the rising NATO casualties, which they attribute to restrictions on rules of combat, such as limiting the use of air and artillery strikes when civilians are in the area. We must
continue our emphasis on reducing the loss of innocent civilian life to an absolute minimum, Petraeus wrote. At the same time, he said, We must employ all assets to ensure your safety, keeping in mind, again, the importance of avoiding civilian casualties.
Meanwhile, the civilian deaths continue to climb. More than 1,000 Afghanis marched in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif July 10 to protest the killing of two security guards at a local market during a search for Taliban by Afghan and NATO troops. According to Reuters, the demonstrators chanted slogans against the foreign troops and Afghan president Hamid Karzai.
Obama has appointed Gen. James Mattis to take over Petraeuss position as commander of U.S. Central Command. Mattis coauthored, with Petraeus, the militarys manual on counterinsurgency.
Speaking off the cuff at a 2005 forum in San Diego, Mattis displayed his contempt for Afghans when he said: You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap around women for five years because they didnt wear a veil. You know guys like that aint got no manhood left anyway, so its a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates, in announcing Mattiss new appointment, called him one of our militarys outstanding combat leaders and strategic thinkers.