Daily brief: 2009 deadliest year yet for Afghan civilians: UN
The cost of war 2009 was the deadliest year since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan for Afghan civilians, according to a just-released report from the United Nations, and the Taliban and other insurgents killed nearly three times more civilians than coalition forces; most Taliban-caused deaths were from suicide bombings, executions, and homemade bombs (BBC, AP, ...
The cost of war
The cost of war
2009 was the deadliest year since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan for Afghan civilians, according to a just-released report from the United Nations, and the Taliban and other insurgents killed nearly three times more civilians than coalition forces; most Taliban-caused deaths were from suicide bombings, executions, and homemade bombs (BBC, AP, NYT, AJE, AFP, Pajhwok, Reuters). More than 2,400 Afghan civilians were killed last year, a 14 percent increase over 2008, and civilian deaths caused by Western forces dropped 28 percent from the previous year. Update: the full report is available here.
The Obama administration reportedly plans to ask Congress for an additional $33 billion in war funding, most of it to go toward the expansion of the war in Afghanistan (AP). The request is likely to receive support on Capitol Hill, though could expose further rifts between Obama and more liberal Democrats.
Dexter Filkins has the most thorough accounting of what happened in the restive town of Garmsir in Helmand province when protests yesterday against the alleged desecration of a Koran by U.S. forces turned violent and left at least eight dead (NYT). Villagers say NATO-led forces raided a house in the area on Sunday and destroyed copies of the holy book, which the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) promptly denied; local members of the Taliban reportedly whipped up the protesters to riot, and Afghan intelligence officers apparently fired into the crowd (AP, BBC, AFP, FT, AJE, Pajhwok).
Joshua Partlow has more details about the somewhat unusual recent use of Predator drones in a pair of strikes in Helmand, Afghanistan (Wash Post). While drones are more often associated with strikes in Pakistan’s northwest frontier, U.S. military officials say their use is become more common in neighboring Afghanistan.
The Pentagon yesterday announced the latest round of U.S. soldiers to be sent to Afghanistan, bringing the total number of U.S. troops notified for deployment to 25,000 (LAT, AFPS, NBC). Some 3,100 soldiers will deploy to Afghanistan sometime this summer, most from the 4th Combat Aviation Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division, based in Ft. Hood, Texas.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is visiting Helmand this week on an airborne tour aimed at encouraging Afghan farmers to grow crops other than the lucrative poppy (McClatchy).
Afghan President Hamid Karzai told ABC News yesterday that although he is "grateful for even the little money" the U.S. has given Afghanistan, "we never really had a blank check" (ABC, Reuters). Karzai also commented that there have been "plenty of signs" from the "rank-and-file of the Taliban" who want to reconcile with the Afghan government and "come back to their country." And the Afghan government is reportedly putting together a multimillion dollar program to offer jobs, vocational training, and other incentives to reach out to some 20,000 to 35,000 rank-and-file Taliban to encourage them to lay down their arms, though skeptics are concerned that militants will not give up when they believe they are winning (AP).
Laura King profiles the governor of Afghanistan’s northern Balkh province, Atta Mohammad Noor, "who some critics call the personification of Afghanistan’s deeply entrenched warlord culture" and who supported Karzai’s rival in the August 2009 presidential contest, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah (LAT).
The essential read
Scott Shane has today’s must-read with a reality check that terror plots on U.S. territory in 2009 were "a scattered, uncoordinated group of amateurs who displayed more fervor than skill" rather than a "single powerful and sophisticated juggernaut" (NYT). Shane observes that although 2009 had more and more serious domestic plots than any other year, only 14 of the some 14,000 murders in the United States were caused in apparently jihadist attacks: 13 at Ft. Hood, and one in Little Rock, Ark.
A blast in Pakistan
A nine year old child was killed and five others wounded earlier today in a bomb blast near a playground in Tank, about 18 miles east of Pakistan’s troubled tribal regions (AFP). Early reporting suggests that a suicide vest was on the playground, and one of the children touched it (Geo).
Down to the river
Eighteen historic forts, centuries old, on the banks of a river in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province in Afghanistan, are at risk of turning into complete ruins due to lack of repairs and seizure by insurgents (Pajhwok). Some warlords have apparently claimed plots of land inside the forts, but a local resident said the Afghan government "could not touch the mighty men."
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