But first Libya in one sentence:
NATO forces managed to kill a leading rebel (ally) commander with an errant air strike just this past week.
The “killing season” in Afghanistan is generally considered to be April-thru-Oct/Nov depending on weather. This is when Taliban generally conduct offensive operations.
I say it this way because app 65% of all battlefield deaths in Afghanistan are from IED’s. (Note: it took a few minutes to get clearance when the field-of-view was clear for several hundred yards, allowing thee bad guys to get away.) Since the Surge began in 2009 these spring-summer months have provided the bulk of US and Coalition military casualties in Afghanistan.
Since the Administration’s announcement of a withdrawal earlier this year, signals have been mixed. In April, the Taliban announce a major offensive, and there was an uptick in casualties that month (46), but since then, number have fallen drastically. Over 50% compared to 2010, in fact, as the July casualties (32) for US forces were the lowest single month since the Surge began in 2009.
Coalition forces casualties continue to run at about 28%-30% of the total death count. Afghan police and military casualties appear to be dropping in areas where coalition forces have handed over control. We need to pay more attention to how these numbers will track in the coming months leading up to our intended departure date.
Are we winning, or is Taliban only standing down waiting for US derparture, as they informally leaked to Al Jazeera in June?
This is the question of the ages, but can only be answered on the ground and in the Pentagon as to how aggressive our forces will be at pursuing Taliban. I think a little of both, as the Taliban surge in April petered out quickly. And in July almost a quarter of US casualties occurred away from major combat operations, among National Guard units, using IED’s. (This bears watching.)
But fewer deaths are good and I think we are winning. I fear a precipitous pull-out which, over a short period time (the Taliban has been through this before when the Soviets left Afghanistan) it took them very little time to get it all back.
Which provides us with a perfect segue to Iraq
(Editor’s note: Fewer deaths are good, indeed, but, if to save them we return the land to what it was before we arrived, leaving all those who died before to have died for nothing, then, in my view, this is a kind of murder. -VB)
Iraq has been essentially quiet the past three years. Iraqi civilian and military/police deaths (which can be quantified as political…see my comment above about tribal affairs and violent crime) average about 150 month, compared to 2-3 times that in 2009 and beyond.
But Iraqi Interior Ministry announced that July was the bloodiest month of the year (259 combined casualties), about twice the “expected.”
This may or may not have anything to do with the sudden uptick in American forces casualties there in since April, where US casualties had been in monthly single digits since July, 2009. (11 in April, 15 in June).
What internal police reporting in Iraq notices, but goes largely unmentioned in the American press is the reemergence of Iranian arms moving into the Iraqi theater, and a simultaneous rise of Shi’te militia, particularly the cleric Muqtada Al’Sadr, who fled to Iran when Paul Bremer was still in charge, then was invited to return. He has reestablished a fortress in parts of Baghdad. They have promised to launch a wave of suicide bombings against American forces to help facilitate Iraq’s decision NOT to ask the US to stay on (Ed: which Obama desperately doesn’t want to happen now that the Debt ceiling deal is working through the Congress-VB).
There can be no doubt that Iraq is “more dangerous” than it was a year ago, and can be expected to continue in that direction in the coming months.
(Ed: two of George W Bush’s acts of Christian charity have come back to bite America on the ass. One, not putting Hillary Clinton in jail back in 2001 when he could have easily done so. The other is not launching an all out assault on Maqda Al’Sadr and Sadr City in 2004, when it could have killed him straight away, just like Osama, and nipped that little piece of Paradise in the bud.- VB)
In Afghanistan, whether due to Taliban strategy or the success of US forces in the field, we expect to see a continuing drop in casualties in the main theaters of combat.
In Iraq we expect to see an uptick in casualties, countrywide, with a few events that may border on newsbreaking, and much of it will be precipitated by the increase of Iranian arms into Iraq. If the US government is dealing with Iran directly to thwart this, we can’t say. Only HuffPo has seen fit to report on it.
And finally, Libya, we expect the stalemate there to persist through the rest of the year, unless NATO forces can succeed in killing all the remaining anti-Gaddafi rebels.