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According to UNAMA’s report on 2009 civilian casualties, “At least 5,978 civilians were killed and injured in Afghanistan during 2009, the highest number of civilian casualties recorded since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001… The conflict has intensified and spread into areas that previously were considered relatively secure. This has resulted in increasing numbers of civilian dead and injured and with corresponding devastation and destruction of property and civilian infrastructure.”
For 2010, UNAMA recorded a total of 2,777 civilians killed. 2,080 deaths (75 per cent of total civilian deaths) were attributed to Taliban and other terrorist insurgents forces, while 440 deaths or 16 per cent of total civilian deaths were attributed to NATO, ISAF and other pro-government forces. Nine per cent of civilian deaths in 2010 could not be attributed to any particular side.
While civilian deaths caused by NATO, ISAF and other pro-government forces did go down in 2010 when compared with 2009, overall civilian deaths increased because of the Taliban and their allies. And aerial attacks by NATO and other international forces supporting the Afghan government continued to cause significant civilian losses.
Thus, during the Obama administration, American military fatalities are way up, compared with previous years, while the civilian population in Afghanistan is less secure from terrorist attacks. Despite this murky record, the Obama administration is trying to put a positive spin on the course of the war in Afghanistan.
In a cautiously optimistic year-end 2010 report, the Obama administration said:
Specific components of our strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan are working well and there are notable operational gains… The accelerated deployment of U.S. and international military and civilian resources to the region that began in July 2009 and continued after the President’s policy review last fall has enabled progress and heightened the sense of purpose within the United States Government, among our coalition partners, and in the region. As a result, our strategy in Afghanistan is setting the conditions to begin the responsible reduction of U.S. forces in July 2011.
The target for completing transition responsibility for Afghanistan security to the Afghans is 2014. But as the Obama administration report indicates, America’s commitment as defined by the Obama administration will not end in 2014: “Beyond these targets, and even after we draw down our combat forces, the U.S. will continue to support Afghanistan’s development and security as a strategic partner.”
How many troops would begin to come out this year and what conditions on the ground would affect the pace of withdrawal, the report did not say. Nor did the report mention the increased number of American military casualties or the overall increase in civilian casualties since Obama’s surge began.
In fact, the administration’s Afghanistan progress report grossly distorted the security situation in declaring: “The surge in coalition military and civilian resources, along with an expanded special operations forces targeting campaign and expanded local security measures at the village level, has reduced overall Taliban influence and arrested the momentum they had achieved in recent years in key parts of the country.”
The UN data on civilian casualties cited above, documenting a significant rise in insurgent-caused deaths during 2010, give the lie to the Obama administration’s rosy claim that its surge has “reduced overall Taliban influence.” More American soldiers are dying while the Afghan civilian population is less safe.
The New York Times and other left-wing media outlets would have been all over the Bush administration for much less spin than the Obama administration’s blatant distortion of the facts on the ground. But they give the Obama administration a free pass. The New York Times has gone so far as to defend Obama’s Afghan surge decision, which has yet to bring us closer to victory, in contrast to its incessant drumbeat against George W. Bush’s Iraq surge decision, which turned out to be a great success.
Unlike during the height of the Iraq War, when The New York Times and other mainstream media treated both civilian casualties and American military casualties as front page news, the mounting civilian and American military death toll during President Obama’s escalation of the Afghanistan war is treated as little more than a sidebar.
As the 2012 presidential campaign approaches, we can expect more attempts by the mainstream media to downplay or obscure the human toll of the Afghanistan war and the quagmire it has become under President Obama.
Joseph Klein is the author of a recent book entitled Lethal Engagement: Barack Hussein Obama, the United Nations and Radical Islam.
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