More than 1,000 Afghans civilians have been killed so far this year, 24 per cent more than in 2008 and 50 per cent more than 2007. Although the Taliban cause the majority of civilian casualties, air strikes still kill hundreds and occasion far more outrage and attention.
Meanwhile, 289 foreign soldiers – including 21 Canadians – have been killed to date in 2009. Casualties are up 50 per cent over last year and roughly five times the levels in 2004. No one keeps track of Taliban deaths, but the number is believed to be in the thousands.
Hundreds of Afghan government soldiers and police have also been killed so far this year as the vast influx of U.S. troops have turned all of southern Afghanistan into a battleground.
And now, because the war is going so badly there’s a call for at least another 20,000 soldiers. This after the “surge” that sent 35,000 American soldiers to put down the internecine conflict that apparently would have spun the country into civil war. There were many who saw this as a beginning to even greater escalation. With the additional troops the West will have as many troops in Afghanistan as the Soviets did at the height of their conflict. A few years ago people who compared this war to Vietnam were dismissed as alarmist. No more.
So now the question is whether or not Obama can stand up to the Pentagon. Because, always, the Pentagon’s solution is bigger guns wielded my more soldiers. And if no other solution is found you can bet, if the Harper government is still in power, the deadline of withdrawing Canadian troops in 2011 will be extended.