Afghan War Casualties Update
By Taylor Marvin
I don’t understand this relatively optimistic reading of the most recent Afghanistan casualty figures. Coalition deaths in the first three months of 2011 fell by 30 from the same period last year, arguably too small of a fall to make any conclusions about the state of the war. That coalition fatalities have been basically constant for the last 9 months isn’t necessarily evidence that the military situation in Afghanistan is stabilizing. Fighting in Afghanistan typically slows in the winter because of inclement weather. Fatalities have been flat this year because, unlike every year before 2010, they didn’t significantly fall this winter, and we can expect fatalities to rise into the summer as they did in 2010. This trend demonstrates the Taliban have become more able to engage coalition troops during the winter, a major change from the 2001-2009 period. This is probably due to the Taliban’s increasing reliance on IED attacks over small arms, operations much less dependent on good weather. A summer spike in deaths over a high constant winter baseline seems to be the post-2010 status quo.