You can often tell by casualty statistics the level of the war being fought in Afghanistan.
As you’ve no doubt noticed, I’ve been posting fewer and fewer casualty reports in our By An Angel’s Kiss site. We’re grateful for that.
But it also means the level of fighting has diminished. In the summer of 2009 we launched the Surge which meant a more aggressive military attitude toward searching for and killing Taliban. And it has largely worked.
(I recommend you visit iCausulaties.org to see a list of every casualty, from every country, in every province and by any means, hostile and non-hostile to get a better view of this war. At the bottom of the page is a great map that shows where the majority of the fighting is, province by province, namely along the Iran and Pakistan (and Waziristan) border.)
Have we quit hunting Taliban or have the Taliban quit raiding? Or is this stand down just seasonal?
Now, historically, the Taliban and other insurgent groups do the majority of their fighting between the Spring and late Autumn…December through March brutal months weatherwise. The Taliban tends to hunker down during the period, and that’s fine by ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) troops and command.
But even by winter fighting markers from previous years, the death toll has been way down:
From Dec 2011-Mar 2012 only 47 US soldiers died in hostile action, compared to (same period) 2010-2011, 94 battle deaths, and 94 battle deaths in 2009-2010. Down by half.
In other words, combat deaths are almost back to pre-Surge (2009) levels.
This can mean many things, as I asked the question in Fall, 2011: Are we kicking Taliban’s butt, or are they just hunkering down waiting for the US to leave, as announced, in 2014?
The vast majority of combat deaths in this period has been in the southern provinces, Kandahar and Hellmand, where the Army and Marines hold sway for the most part.
IED deaths (Improvised Explosive Device) has also been way down, currently at 2007 levels, only 22 all year. The US has had only 2 IED deaths in almost 90 days.
IED’s are used against military vehicles on the move, so this indicates either the Taliban has gone into hiding (for military or political reasons) or ISAF forces (our guys have been less aggressive in trying to hunt them down and engage them in combat.
I know this doesn’t really tell you a lot, as there are many forces at work here, since the military mission is quietly changing, it seems, and the Taliban may be willing to just wait us out.
April will tell.