Two-Thirds of U.S. Deaths in Afghanistan Have Occurred Since Obama’s Surge

February 28, 2012 - 12:37 PM
Afghanistan wounded

U.S. soldiers tend a wounded colleague in Kandahar, Afganistan in July 2010. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

(CNSNews.com) - Two-thirds of U.S. military fatalities in the decade-long Afghan war have occurred since May 15, 2009, when the first wave of the troop surge ordered by President Barack Obama arrived in Afghanistan.

The 1,180 U.S. military fatalities in Afghanistan reported between May 15, 2009 and today account for approximately 66 percent of the total of 1,792 U.S. military fatalities in that country since the beginning of the war in October 2001, according to CNSNews.com’s database of all fatalities in the war.

At the White House press briefing on Monday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney noted that the president had been clear when he campaigned in 2008 that he would escalate the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan—saying this was necessary because the previous administration had not put sufficient resources into that war.

“I think the president made clear when he was a candidate for this office and has made clear since he took this office that, unfortunately, prior to his taking office, because of the focus on Iraq and the U.S. efforts there, that the original war, if you will, in Afghanistan had been neglected, that the strategy there was unclear and that it was not properly resourced,” said Carney.

“He was very clear about what he would do as president when he was a candidate and has been clear in executing his vision since he became President,” said Carney. “He is very sympathetic to the sacrifice that families in America who have sent members to both Iraq and Afghanistan have given to their country. It is both the men and women who serve in these wars and their families that sacrifice tremendously.

“He does not want American troops to be in Afghanistan any longer, not a day longer, than they need to be to complete this mission,” Carney said Monday. “That's why he has been very clear in putting forward a strategy that included the plussing-up, the surging of forces, in order to execute the mission, and the drawing down, the slow withdrawal, the gradual withdrawal, the paced withdrawal of U.S. forces as we transfer lead authority over to the Afghan security forces.”

On February 17, 2009. less than a month after taking office, Obama announced the deployment of 17,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, fulfilling his campaign promise to shift U.S. military forces to Afghanistan.

The first wave of those troops arrived in southern Afghanistan, the epicenter of insurgent activity, on May 15, 2009.

Since that date, according to CNSNews.com's database of Afghan war casualties, 1,180 U.S. service personnel have given their lives in Afghanistan. Since the Afghan war began on Oct. 1, 2001, a total of 1,792 U.S. service personnel have given their lives in that war.

On March 27, 2009, a little more than a month after he announced his initial escalation in Afghanistan, Obama announced another surge that would send an additional 4,000 troops into Afghanistan. That brought Obama’s increase in the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan to 21,000 at that point.

The president determined later, however, that even more U.S. troops were needed on the ground in Afghanistan.

On Dec. 1, 2009, Obama announced the deployment to Afghanistan of additional 30,000 U.S. military personnel.

Since Obama ordered that final escalation of 30,000 U.S. troop in Afghanistan, an additional, 944 U.S. military personnel have died in that country. That equals about 53 percent of the total 1,792 deaths since the beginning of the war in October 2001.

When Obama announced his final troop surge in December 2009, he said that U.S. troops would begin withdrawing from Afghanistan in 2011.

Later, in remarks at the conclusion of a NATO summit meeting in Lisbon, Portugal, on Nov. 20, 2010, Obama said that by 2014 Afghan forces would be responsible for taking the lead in securing their own country.

“First,” Obama said then, “we aligned our approach on the way forward in Afghanistan, particularly on a transition to full Afghan lead that will begin in early 2011 and will conclude in 2014.”

At the same time, Obama vowed to be sensitive to the concerns of the Afghan people, while saying it was “unacceptable” to let American troops in that country become “sitting ducks.”

“So my message to President Karzai is: We have to be sensitive to his concerns and the concerns of the Afghan people. We can't simply tell them what's good for them,” said Obama. “We have to listen and learn and be mindful of the fact that Afghans ultimately make decisions about how they want to structure their governance, how they want to structure their justice system, how they want to approach economic development.

“On the other hand, if we're putting in big resources, if we're ponying up billions of dollars, if the expectation is that our troops are going to be there to help secure the countryside and ensure that President Karzai can continue to build and develop his country, then he's got to also pay attention to our concerns as well,” said Obama.

“[H]e's got to understand that I've got a bunch of young men and women from small towns and big cities all across America who are in a foreign country being shot at and having to traverse terrain filled with IEDs, and they need to protect themselves,” said Obama. “And so if we're setting things up where they're just sitting ducks for the Taliban, that's not an acceptable answer either.”

Each of the three deadliest years of the Afghan war have been on Obama’s watch. 2010 was the deadliest year of the war for U.S. troops, with 497 American military personnel dying in Afghanistan that year. 2011 was the second deadliest year of the war, with 399 U.S. military personnel dying in Afghanistan. And 2009 was the third deadliest year of the war with 303 U.S. military personnel dying in Afghanistan.

CNSNews.com’s detailed count of U.S. military fatalities in Afghanistan is drawn from official casualty reports issued by the Department of Defense and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force-Afghanistan, augmented by information taken from media accounts.