Tuesday, February 26, 2008

British Casualty Updates for January 2008

Updates of casualty data for January 2008 have now been published for the casualty monitor projects for British forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Afghanistan round up

Arguably, the most notable development so far this year has been the apparent near breakdown in cooperation between the governments with NATO forces in Afghanistan. The US has been highly critical of many of its allies, including the UK, citing lack of skill in fighting the insurgency in the south. In a similar vain, they have harangued Germany for not engaging in the fierce fighting in the south and are trying to force a larger commitment from other allies. The US defense secretary, Robert Gates, has even cast doubt over the whole future of NATO because of difficulties experienced in Afghanistan.

Canada was threatening to pullout its troops unless more support is provided. In contrast, the British government continues its commitment to the war and announces the largest deployment of paratroops since the second world war. However, relationships between the Kabul government that was installed following the US-led invasion, and one of Americas key allies in that operation, the British, have reached a low. Mistrust, derived partly from Britain's historical role in the country' appears to be contributing to a serious breakdown in relationships.

In addition to the problems of commitment to the war by the US-led forces, there have been a range of reports illustrating the negative impacts of the war on the Afghan people.

At the end of last year we learnt that Afghanistan has dropped a place in a UN global human development index, which ranks countries based on their citizens’ economic income, life expectancy and literacy rate.

A report out earlier this month by the
International Crisis Group (ICG) concluded that the international community must “accept mistakes” it has made in the past six years or more in rebuilding and developing Afghanistan, and should now “summon the means and resolve to make a decisive change”.

The report “Afghanistan: The need for international resolve”, released on 6 February, comes amidst growing calls for a dramatic change in the way international donors have engaged militarily and politically, and spent over US$15 billion on reconstruction, development and humanitarian activities in Afghanistan since late 2001. This follows a critique of the international response in Afghanistan by Oxfam, who said that the aid effort has been
“too centralised, top-heavy and insufficient”.

To round off a range of dismal assessments, the former leader of the UK Liberal Democrat Party Paddy Ashdown - who Kabul rejected as a UN envoy to Afghanistan - said in a BBC interview that the situation in Afghanistan was dire. "I think Afghanistan is a failed state, I don't think it's a question of it being on the edge of it," Lord Ashdown said.

Iraq round up

To start on an optimistic point, we were pleased to note that January 2008 was the first month for well over a year during which there were no British fatalities in Iraq.

The Turkish invasion of a region in Northern Iraq, that began on February 21, is continuing and straining relationships between the government of Iraq and the US administration. The full humanitarian impact on the civilian population and casualties in the area is yet to emerge.

US Secretary of Defence, Robert Gates, has announced that the 'surge' of US troops is likely to continue after July due to the fragility of the gains that have been made. With the publication of a new military manual there are indications that the US is trying to place the 'hearts and minds' element of counter insurgency much higher up their agenda.

The legality of the initial invasion of Iraq was brought up again by a hearing held by the law lords in London. Military Families Against the War (MFAW) have been demanding a public enquiry into the decision to invade.
The law lords considered the mothers' argument that servicemen and women have the right not to have their lives jeopardised in illegal conflicts.

The illegal killing of civilian prisoners by British troops is also back in the news after it was revealed that the army legal chief raised concerns about a number of deaths as long ago as May 2003, but was repeatedly ignored "at all levels" of the Government and military.

The Commons Defence Select Committee published a report on the health care provided for UK servicemen. Noting that the health care provided was generally first rate, they also drew attention to the long term problems of post traumatic stress disorder and the failure in providing adequate case identification and care.