Wednesday, April 21, 2010

British Casualties in Afghanistan remain elevated: Election campaigns remain disinterested

An updated analysis of casualty data for British forces in Afghanistan has been posted for the first quarter of  2010. Total UK casualties now stand at 666 for the first 3 months of 2010.  The data presented indicates that casualty levels remain elevated but, perhaps surprisingly, that there was no particular peak associated with operation Moshtarak.

The war in Afghanistan has now run for about eight and a half years.  According to official MOD statistics British forces have sustained close to 7,500 casualties.  Casualties suffered by Afghans are hard to estimate but are certainly much, much higher.   The UN estimate that in 2009, 2,412 civilian were killed in the conflict, an increase of 14 per cent from 2008 when 2,118 civilian deaths were recorded. No reliable figures are available for the deaths of Afghan combatants, from either side of the conflict. There seems little prospect of an end to the conflict and even worse, no clear vision of what 'victory' would look like.

Given the dire state of affairs in Afghanistan it is quite remarkable how little profile the war has been given in the UK general election campaign to date. A new opinion poll published today confirms high levels of voter dissatisfaction with Britain's eight-year military involvement in Afghanistan with 72 per cent believing the war is "unwinnable". Over half say they "don't really understand why Britain is still in Afghanistan" and 70 per cent said they believed the main parties did not offer them "any real choice of policies" on Afghanistan.

Of the main three parties, the Liberal Democrats have been the least likely to support recent UK polices on invasion and occupation. They also appear to be most in favour of achieving peace through an inclusive political settlement in Afghanistan.  But even they appear to be relatively muted on the subject of the war in public debate.  As the leaders debates move into foreign affairs things may change but, so far, the lack of attention shown to the Afghan war has been quite lamentable.

Updated 23.04.2010