Wednesday, November 18, 2009

British Casualties in Afghanistan - Analysis up to October 31st

Analysis of casualty data up to the end of October 2009 is now on-line for British forces in Afghanistan. The analysis shows a persistently elevated level of British casualties. Although the 3 month moving has declined slightly from September, October 2009 is nonetheless the third worst month for the UK since the war began in 2001.

Since the last casualty update changes in the policy arena have continued apace. Fallout from the Iraq invasion has resurfaced and has been providing a backdrop to political debate on whether to continue the war in Afghanistan. During the last week there has been media interest in the renewed investigation in to the torture and killing of Iraqi prisoners by UK forces, and an apparent rise in birth defects in Fallujah, which may be linked to the deployment of chemical weapons by the US in their assaults on the city during 2004.

Meanwhile, public support for the Afghan war has been shown to be low. In a ComRes poll for the Independent on Sunday, 71 per cent of people interviewed it the UK supported a phased withdrawal of British forces from Afghanistan within a year or so, while just 22 per cent disagreed. A majority of respondents also thought the threat of terrorism on UK soil is increased by British forces remaining in Afghanistan (47 vs. 44 %).

Within this context a dramatic change of UK policy was posited. Prime Minister Gordon Brown appeared to announce the the beginning of the end for large scale British military involvement in Afghanistan by signalling the start of a possible withdrawal in 2010.

Referring to a NATO conference planned for early in 2010 he said it could:
"...chart a comprehensive political framework within which the military strategy can be accomplished. It should identify a process for transferring district by district to full Afghan control and, if at all possible, set a timetable for transfer starting in 2010".