As the security situation in Iraq reaches a tenuous balance of power, the news from the forgotten war in Afghanistan is getting worse. Overall levels of violence are up, the Taliban is gaining strength, and U.S. casualties are on the rise.
The by-the-numbers look below is only a glimpse of how much the situation has deteriorated since the world stopped paying attention.
Violence is increasing.
2007 was the deadliest year for American forces in Afghanistan. 2008 is on pace to be even deadlier; in June, more international coalition forces were killed in Afghanistan than Iraq. Attacks in eastern Afghanistan in June of 2008 are 40 percent higher than the previous six months.
0: The number of suicide bombings in Afghanistan between 1983 and 2001.
21: The number of suicide bombings in 2005.
123: The number of suicide bombings in 2006.
160: The number of suicide bombings in 2007.
1,931: Number of roadside bombings in 2006.
2,615: Number of roadside bombings in 2007.
The Taliban is strengthening.
The Karzai government now controls less than one-third of the country. The other two-thirds is either uncontrolled, in the hands of the Taliban, or in the hands of warlords. The Taliban are openly challenging U.S. forces in pitched battles. This month, Taliban forces mounted the deadliest assault on U.S. forces since 2005 in Kunar province. Last June, Taliban forces attempted to gain control over large swaths of Kandahar.
350-400: Taliban fighters freed in a June 2008 Taliban attack on a prison near Kandahar, some of them district-level commanders.
Casualties are increasing.
556: Americans killed in Afghanistan since 2001.
46: Number killed in June 2008 alone, the month with the highest number of coalition deaths since the 2001 invasion.
Troop levels, funding, and staffing is inadequate.
Ground commanders have requested an additional 3 U.S. combat brigades, over 10,000 troops, for combat and training operations. Yet the U.S. military is unable to provide these troops without a significant drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq. As noted by Adm. Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, additional forces "will not be available (to go to Afghanistan) unless or until the situation in Iraq allows us to do so."
$10.2 billion: Amount the United States pledged to Afghanistan over the next two years at an international donors conference in June.
$10.3 billion: Amount the Department of Defense spent per month in Iraq in 2007.
$25 billion: Total development aid pledged by international donors to Afghanistan from 2002-2008, prior to the June aid conference.
$15 billion: Total actually spent.
$10.4 billion: Total pledged by the United States during this period.
$5 billion: Total actually spent by the United States.
36,000: U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
150,000: U.S. troops in Iraq.
Training missions still lagging
$6.2 billion: Total spent from 2002-2008 on police training.
0: Number of Afghan police units rated fully capable by DOD
30 units, or 7 percent: Number of Afghan police units rated capable with coalition support or partially capable.
334 units, or 77 percent: Number of Afghan police units rated “not capable.”
69 units, or 16 percent: Number of Afghan police units rated “not formed or not reporting.”
44 percent: Staffing level of U.S./NATO embedded trainers with the Afghan National Army.
39 percent: Staffing level of U.S./NATO police trainers with the Afghan National Police.
These warning signs are not going away any time soon. But if the United States keeps spending all of its resources in Iraq, it will miss the opportunity to defeat the insurgency in Afghanistan—the true central front in the war against terrorism—and cut off important Al Qaeda safe havens. U.S. leadership must recognize that until it devotes significant resources to Afghanistan, the insurgency will continue to gain strength and the United States and its partners will continue to react to events on the ground instead of dictating the pace of operations.
It is time to stop recklessly extending our military presence in Iraq and regain control of our overall national security interests in the greater Middle East by redeploying our forces out of Iraq and into Afghanistan.
Read more from CAP about Afghanistan: