The largest foreign military force ever deployed in Afghanistan is now well into the tenth year of the longest and what has become the deadliest war of the 21st century.
Some 154,000 occupation troops, almost two-thirds American and the rest from fifty other nations, are waging an armed conflict that has become more lethal with each succeeding year.
At the beginning of this month Agence France-Presse calculated that over 10,000 people had been killed in Afghanistan in 2010. Based on official Afghan government figures and those from the icasualties website, record-level fatalities were documented in every category:
The U.S., its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies and assorted NATO partnership nations lost 711 soldiers, a substantial increase from the preceding year when the death toll was 521. The remaining 9,370 killed were Afghans. According to AFP they were:
810 government troops, 1,292 police, 2,043 civilians and 5,225 people referred to as “militants.” It is uncertain how many dead in the last category properly belong in the one preceding it. The United Nations, for example, said 2,412 civilians were killed and 3,803 wounded in the first ten months of last year, a 20 percent increase over 2009.
The fighting and the killing grew in intensity as the year came to a close, with the U.S. and NATO escalating bombing raids and counterinsurgency ground operations.
Last February NATO forces launched Operation Moshtarak in Helmand province, the largest offensive to date in the war that began on October 7, 2001. At least 15,000 foreign and government troops conducted a lopsided onslaught against at most a few hundred Taliban fighters with the population of Marjah the main victim.
The next month U.S. and NATO forces began Operation Omaid to gain control of Kandahar city, capital of the province of the same name, and prepared Operation Hamkari in the province, which was repeatedly delayed in large part because of the failure of the drawn-out and indecisive offensive in neighboring Helmand. The Hamkari offensive did not get underway until September and on a less ambitious scale than Operation Moshtarak.
This month a delegation of Afghan officials, led by President Hamid Karzai’s adviser Mohammad Sadiq Aziz, claimed that the still ongoing Operation Omaid has caused $100 million in damages to fruit crops (on the eve of harvest season), livestock and property. “The Om[a]id (Hope) military operation, which has been going on for some time in Arghandab, Zhari, and Panjwai districts, has inflicted severe damage to the people,” Aziz said. 
On January 24 President Karzai himself accused NATO of cutting down as many as 4,000 trees in Ghazni province. “The president in condemning this act emphasises to the international forces that they must avoid such action, which is a crime against Afghanistan’s public properties and destroys the environment,”  read a statement issued by the president’s office. Evidently the only plant to be left untouched by NATO is the opium poppy.
On a day-to-day basis U.S. and NATO increased three-prong attacks on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border: An unprecedented level of bombings, intensified special forces night raids and a dramatic escalation of deadly drone missile strikes in northwestern Pakistan.
The U.S. Navy announced on the first day of this year that the 1,000th sortie for the war in Afghanistan had been launched from the nuclear-powered supercarrier USS Abraham Lincoln in the Arabian Sea on December 28. Warplanes taking off from its deck logged almost 6,000 flight hours in the last four months of 2010.
Last year the U.S. Air Force more than doubled the amount of joint terminal attack controllers (JTACs) ordering air strikes in Afghanistan, who last October alone coordinated over 1,000 missions, the largest monthly amount of the war so far.
The Air Force plans to spend over $23 million to construct new facilities in Germany and Italy “for airmen who call in airstrikes for Army combat troops in Afghanistan.” It is planning to double the amount of tactical air control personnel, including joint terminal attack controllers, “the airmen trained to call in airstrikes on enemy targets.” 
A $13 million Air Support Operations Squadron complex is planned for the U.S. Army base in Vilseck, Germany and a $10 million installation is planned at the Aviano Air Base in Italy.
Vilseck is home to the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment and an infantry brigade and Aviano hosts an air support operations squadron which supports the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team based at Vicenza.
The upgrades are part of a $100 million package for U.S. major military construction projects in Europe for use in wars to the east and the south.
This month the U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft marked its two millionth flight hour “just four years after passing its first million-hour mark, and the first million hours took 16 years to reach.”  Its missions are overwhelmingly in support of the war in Afghanistan.
The Pentagon announced on January 20 that “airdrop operations in Afghanistan reached an unprecedented level in 2010 with a record 60.4 million pounds of cargo airdropped.
“[T]he 60.4 million pounds is nearly twice the previous record year of 2009, when more than 32.2 million pounds of cargo were airdropped, U.S. Air Forces Central statistics show.”
“Since 2006, the annual amount of airdropped supplies and equipment has practically doubled every year. Air Force Central statistics released yesterday show that 3.5 million pounds were airdropped in 2006, 8.12 million in 2007, 16.57 million in 2008, 32.26 million in 2009 and 60.4 million in 2010.”
The air dropping of equipment to U.S. and NATO troops is conducted by C-17 Globemaster III, C-130 Hercules and C-130 Super Hercules planes which operate out of the Bagram Airfield and the Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan.
In the words of the director of the Combined Air and Space Operations Center’s Air Mobility Division, “This continued sustainment of our warfighting forces is key to counterinsurgency operations, which require persistent presence and logistics.” 
The website of U.S. Air Forces Central states:
“The Combined Air and Space Operations Center Weapons System, also known as the AN/USQ-163 Falconer Weapon System, commands and controls the broad spectrum of what air power brings to the fight: Global Vigilance, Global Reach, and Global Power. Located in the Air Forces Central theater of operations, the CAOC provides the command and control of airpower throughout Iraq, Afghanistan and 18 other nations….The CAOC is a true joint and Coalition team, staffed by U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and Coalition partners.” 
In the middle of this month NATO deployed two Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft to Afghanistan, “where crews will be tasked with tracking the Alliances’ missions against Taliban insurgents.” 
Also this month it was revealed that the U.S. is adding to its drone fleet of Predators and Reapers with the introduction of the Gordon Stare, more advanced in scope and sophistication than its predecessors, able to relay up to ten real time video streams. “Gorgon Stare will be looking at a whole city, so there will be no way for the adversary to know what we’re looking at, and we can see everything,” stated a Pentagon official recently.  It hasn’t been reported whether the new drone will be equipped with the devastating Hellfire missiles launched from Predator, Reaper and Grey Eagle unmanned aerial vehicles.
The U.S. has recently deployed M1 Abrams tanks to Helmand province, the first heavily armored American battle tanks used in the over nine-year war. The move permits “ground forces to target insurgents from a greater distance – and with more of a lethal punch – than is possible from any other U.S. military vehicle. The 68-ton tanks are propelled by a jet engine and equipped with a 120mm main gun that can destroy a house more than a mile away.” 
General David Petraeus, commander of all foreign forces in Afghanistan, has intensified the counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan to record levels. Special operations raids and assassinations more than tripled last autumn.
Early this month Secretary of Defense Robert Gates ordered an additional 1,400 Marines deployed to Afghanistan, “temporarily,” raising the number of U.S. troops in theater to the current authorized level of 101,000.
Last year the number of nations officially providing NATO troops for its International Security Assistance Force operations in Afghanistan grew to 48, exactly a quarter of United Nations members. That tally excludes the armed forces of Afghanistan and Pakistan and other countries that have assigned forces to NATO for the war effort, including Bahrain, Colombia, Egypt and Kazakhstan.
In total there are over 150,000 foreign troops in the country, 130,000 now under NATO command.
The commander of the NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan, U.S. Lieutenant General William Caldwell, announced on January 5 that the Western military bloc’s spending on building a U.S. and NATO proxy military in Afghanistan will total $20 billion for last year and this.
“The $20 billion for 2010 and 2011 is paying for training, equipment and infrastructure. The figure is a large increase over the $20 billion spent between 2003 and 2009.”
Caldwell also confirmed that “the NATO training mission would remain as long as necessary, but at least until 2016, when it expects to finish developing the air force.”
“We’re not leaving. If anything, our organization will probably grow a little bit more in size.” 
On January 12 the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, told a press conference in Washington, D.C. that violence in Afghanistan will continue to rise beyond its already unprecedented scale in the spring when the fighting season begins anew.
In his latest monthly press conference on January 24, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen concurred, stating:
“I do not expect 2011 to be easy. We will continue to drive deep into insurgent territory. And we expect continued violence as the enemy fights back.”
In his January 25 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama employed similar language – “There will be tough fighting ahead” – though he buried the topic of the world’s largest and longest war at the bottom of his speech under an avalanche of platitudes like American family, Sputnik moment, poised for progress, the future is ours to win, our free enterprise system is what drives innovation, what Americans have done for over 200 years: reinvented ourselves and others being polished for his reelection campaign next year.
As of the 24th of this month, traditionally a quiet one on the war front, the U.S. and NATO had already lost 27 soldiers. A NATO air strike killed three Afghan policemen earlier in the month, following similar incidents on December 8 and 16 when eight Afghan soldiers were killed in two bombing runs. On January 15 a U.S. soldier shot and killed an Afghan soldier.
Two days later an Afghan soldier killed an Italian serviceman and wounded another. The Italian soldier was the 36th lost in Afghanistan. Less than a week later a Polish soldier was killed in eastern Afghanistan, the 23rd Polish soldier to die in the country.
Early in the month three Afghan civilians, including a student, were killed in a NATO night raid in Ghazni province, sparking a protest by hundreds of people.
Yet according to Admiral Mullen, “We must prepare ourselves for more violence and more casualties in coming months.”
While in Afghanistan two weeks ago, Vice President Joseph Biden affirmed that “the United States is prepared to stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014, if Afghans wanted it.” 
Days later NATO commander General Petraeus stated “Some international troops would stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014,” as last November’s NATO summit declaration “said the process would be conditions-based, not calendar-driven.” 
“US Vice President Joseph Biden, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and some other world leaders have promised their troops will stay in Afghanistan even after the agreed timeline.” 
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, while in Pakistan en route to Afghanistan this month, “pledged long-term support for Afghanistan, saying his country would continue engagements there even after 2014….” 
In the words of a Russian analyst:
“None of the targets set before the deployment of forces to Afghanistan has been achieved. The Taliban…have not been defeated, but military operations have been expanded. American and NATO forces have been denied access to many regions of the country. Consequently, it’s incorrect to say that the allied forces control Afghanistan. In these circumstances, American and NATO forces cannot withdraw from the country because this may be considered as a defeat.” 
In interviews with the Voice of Russia, Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman General Zahir Azimi and Kabul-based political scientist Nasrullah Stanakzai averred that “Both the United States and NATO are unlikely to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan in 2014.” Azimi added, “local government security forces will call the shots in Afghanistan by 2014, which, however, will unlikely see the pull-out of the US’ and NATO’s troops from this South Asian country.” 
Not only are American and NATO troops not going to withdraw from Afghanistan or even began to “draw down” this year as President Barack Obama pledged on December 1, 2009, but their number has reached its highest level to date and the war has been expanded into Pakistan in the interim.
The Conflict Monitoring Center, an independent research group concentrating on South Asia, revealed in a recent report that U.S. drone missile strikes in Pakistan, described as an “assassination campaign turning out to be a revenge campaign,” have killed 2,043 people, “mostly civilians,” over the last five years. 
Last year was the deadliest year by far, with 134 missile attacks in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (overwhelmingly in North Waziristan) killing nearly 1,000 people.
The reports provided these details:
“People in the tribal belt usually carry guns and ammunition as a tradition. US drones will identify anyone carrying a gun as a militant and subsequently he will be killed.”
“Many times, people involved in rescue activities also come under attack. The assumption that these people are supporters of militants is quite wrong.” 
Over 700 people were killed in the Central Intelligence Agency-directed missile strikes the preceding year, meaning over three-quarters of total killings occurred in the past two years. At the beginning of 2010 Dawn, Pakistan’s leading English-language newspaper, wrote:
“According to the statistics compiled by Pakistani authorities, the Afghanistan-based US drones killed 708 people in 44 predator attacks targeting the tribal areas between January 1 and December 31, 2009.
“For each Al Qaeda and Taliban terrorist killed by US drones, 140 innocent Pakistanis also had to die. Over 90 per cent of those killed in the deadly missile strikes were civilians, claim authorities.” 
On the last day of 2010 a commentary on China’s Xinhua News Agency website stated:
“The number of air strikes doubled this year over the previous one, and the figure of people killed in these strikes also doubled, which shows the growing U.S. influence in Pakistan’s territory.”
“People killed in drone strikes are usually identified as militants or suspected militants by U.S. officials and Pakistani security forces. But the real fact always remains distant and far behind. There are never any details of the names of people killed in such aerial strikes in the media, nor are their identities confirmed or faces shown. The exact account always remains vague.
“Besides these militants, a large number of innocent civilians also became victims of the drone strikes aimed at militants. They raised their voice in protest but most of the times it is all in vain.” 
In addition to local protests, last month demonstrations were held in Pakistan’s capital of Islamabad against the bloody and cowardly targeted murders in the tribal areas. 10,000 people demonstrated in Peshawar at the beginning of this week demanding a halt to the attacks.
To demonstrate how much the U.S. is concerned about the outrage of Pakistanis over the missile strikes, and the victims of the same, over the last four weeks the CIA:
Fired a missile at vehicles near the town of Ghulam Khan in North Waziristan on December 31, killing eight people.
Killed 19 in three missile attacks in the same region on the first of the year.
On January 7 slew four more people in North Waziristan.
Five days afterward killed six in four missile strikes.
On January 18 killed at least five more people in North Waziristan in an attack on “a house suspected of housing militants.” 
On January 23 launched three drone strikes that killed 13 people in North Waziristan. The targets included a house, a motor vehicle and two people on a motorcycle.
With 62 killed in 24 days, the U.S. is on schedule to slay another 1,000 Pakistanis this year as well in what the State Department’s Harold Koh calls targeted killings as opposed to targeted assassinations. The use of the last term, but not its practice, is frowned upon by U.S. law.
With the passing of several resolutions on Afghanistan since September 2001 condemning terrorism but not war, the United Nations Security Council has been complicit in the expansion of a war that now costs the lives of 10,000 Afghans a year and almost three Pakistanis a day. One that includes 1,000 U.S. and NATO air sorties (bombings, missile attacks and strafing) a month in Afghanistan and on average over twice weekly lethal missile strikes in Pakistan.
Opposition to a war that, counting by days, is in its tenth year and by the calendar its eleventh is virtually non-existent on the official level. The number of the 192 UN member states that have in any manner opposed the Afghanistan-Pakistan war can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
When the Soviet Union intervened in Afghanistan in late 1979 (with the support of both factions of the ruling People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan) the U.S. rallied other nations – in the General Assembly and not the Security Council – to condemn the action. A resolution demanding the “immediate, unconditional and total withdrawal of the foreign troops from Afghanistan” passed by a vote of 104-18 only 18 days after the first Soviet troops arrived in the country. According to major Western political and military officials, U.S. and NATO troops will remain in Afghanistan at least 15 years after the 2001 invasion.
The U.S.-backed mujahideen in Afghanistan and Northwest Pakistan posed a far greater potential threat to the Soviet Union, which bordered Afghanistan, than the Taliban could even theoretically present to the U.S., Canada and their European NATO partners.
Even the most steadfast supporter of the current war cannot with a straight face claim that over 150,000 foreign troops are in Central and South Asia to “hunt Osama bin Laden” and to “combat al-Qaeda.” Not after ten years, surely. (Though Obama in his State of the Union address persisted in asserting “al Qaeda and their affiliates continue to plan attacks against us.”)
The world stands indicted – and convicted – for not so much tolerating as actively supporting a war of unconscionable length with wildly disproportionate use of force by most of the world’s major military powers (three of them nuclear nations). For accepting the concept of indefinite, in practical terms permanent, war as a natural state of affairs in the 21st century as the exclusive prerogative of the world’s self-proclaimed sole military superpower and its phalanx of fellow NATO members.
1) Reuters, January 11, 2011
2) Agence France-Presse, January 24, 2011
3) Stars and Stripes, January 18, 2011
4) WAVY, January 3, 2011
5) Afghanistan Airdrop Levels Reach New Frontier
U.S. Department of Defense, January 20, 2011
6) U.S. Air Forces Central6
Combined Air and Space Operations Center
7) Aero-News.net/Agence France-Presse, January 14, 2011
8) Daily Telegraph, January 26, 2011
9) Washington Post, November 19, 2010
10) Associated Press, January 5, 2011
11) Voice of America News, January 11, 2011
12) Pajhwok Afghan News, January 17, 2011
14) Deutsche Presse-Agentur, January 9, 2011
15) Yevgeny Kryshkin, U.S. troops to stay in Afghanistan
Voice of Russia, January 12, 2011
16) Pyotr Goncharov, US, NATO to stay on in Afghanistan?
Voice of Russia, December 31, 2010
17) Sify News
2010, The Year of Assassination by Drones
Conflict Monitoring Center, January 2011
18) Asian News International, January 3, 2011
19) Dawn, January 2, 2010
20) Misbah Saba Malik, Drone strikes lead to disaster in Pakistan
Xinhua News Agency, December 31, 2010
21) Xinhua News Agency, January 19, 2011
- Afghanistan: Global NATO’s First Ground War In Its Tenth Year by Rick Rozoff (dandelionsalad.wordpress.com)
- U.S. Employs Afghan War To Build Global NATO by Rick Rozoff (dandelionsalad.wordpress.com)