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Mighty Denmark pulls its weight in Afghanistan

CLAUS FISKER/AFP/Getty Images At the current NATO summit, countries’ troop contributions to the effort in Afghanistan has been a hot topic. Last week’s FP List “Who’s Left in Afghanistan?” listed the top five and bottom five countries in terms of the number of troops they had committed to Afghanistan. At the time, the top five ...

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CLAUS FISKER/AFP/Getty Images

At the current NATO summit, countries' troop contributions to the effort in Afghanistan has been a hot topic. Last week's FP List "Who's Left in Afghanistan?" listed the top five and bottom five countries in terms of the number of troops they had committed to Afghanistan. At the time, the top five were the United States (29,000 troops), Britain (7,800), Germany (3,210), Italy (2,880), and Canada (2,500), while the bottom five were Singapore (2 troops), Austria (2, sometimes 3), Ireland (7), Luxembourg (9), and Iceland (13*).

But these numbers can be somewhat misleading when it comes to determining who is pulling their weight, given that, for example, the U.S. population is about 1,000 times that of Iceland. So, another measure would be troop contributions relative to military-age population (defined as those between 20 and 39 years old**). When expressed this way, using updated troop numbers, it's tiny Denmark that comes out on top!

CLAUS FISKER/AFP/Getty Images

At the current NATO summit, countries’ troop contributions to the effort in Afghanistan has been a hot topic. Last week’s FP List “Who’s Left in Afghanistan?” listed the top five and bottom five countries in terms of the number of troops they had committed to Afghanistan. At the time, the top five were the United States (29,000 troops), Britain (7,800), Germany (3,210), Italy (2,880), and Canada (2,500), while the bottom five were Singapore (2 troops), Austria (2, sometimes 3), Ireland (7), Luxembourg (9), and Iceland (13*).

But these numbers can be somewhat misleading when it comes to determining who is pulling their weight, given that, for example, the U.S. population is about 1,000 times that of Iceland. So, another measure would be troop contributions relative to military-age population (defined as those between 20 and 39 years old**). When expressed this way, using updated troop numbers, it’s tiny Denmark that comes out on top!

The Top 5 (troops per 1,000 people 20-39 years old):

  1. Denmark — 0.55
  2. Britain — 0.47
  3. Norway — 0.43
  4. Netherlands — 0.39
  5. United States — 0.35***

The Bottom 5 (troops per 1,000 people 20-39 years old):

  1. Ukraine — 0.0002
  2. Georgia — 0.0008
  3. Austria — 0.0009
  4. Singapore — 0.0016
  5. Ireland — 0.0053

Yet another way to crunch the numbers would be to look at troop fatalities relative to the military-age population. (Just the top five, and not the bottom five, are listed here because there are several countries with zero fatalities.) Sadly for Denmark, it’s at the top again:

The Top 5 (troop fatalities per 1,000 people 20-39 years old):

  1. Denmark — 0.0099
  2. Canada — 0.0090
  3. Britain — 0.0056 (includes Ministry of Defense civilians)
  4. Estonia — 0.0053
  5. United States — 0.0051 (includes fatalities in Pakistan and Uzbekistan)

*Iceland has no military, so its “troops” are actually civilians who report to the Icelandic Crisis Response Unit, but NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) counts them as a troop contribution. Plus, they sure look military.

**Military age was defined as 20 to 39 years old because the most readily available population estimates were expressed in five-year age bands (20-24, 25-29, 30-34, and 35-39).

***The calculation for the United States includes both troops serving in the ISAF effort and those serving under U.S. command.

Sources:

 

Preeti Aroon was copy chief at Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2016 and was an FP assistant editor from 2007 to 2009. Twitter: @pjaroonFP

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