By: Marcus Baram
NEW YORK — It was a busy day in Afghanistan: a U.S. airstrike killed at least three people yesterday, including a leader of the Haqqani terrorist network and two other militants in Khost province, according to the Pentagon.
The men were attacked after troops observed several insurgents planting roadside bombs — the unnamed terrorist leader was reportedly responsible for building and trafficking homemade explosives. In addition, four armed men were killed by security forces who were targeting a Taliban bombmaker in Helmand province, in whose Sangin district several Taliban bomb traffickers were detained and security forces found weapons stockpiles of assault rifles, hand grenades and bomb-making materials.
Today marks the second anniversary of President Barack Obama’s first surge of troops into Afghanistan just weeks after taking office, when he authorized the deployment of 17,000 additional forces to the country — at that point, close to a 50-percent U.S. troop increase. Since then, he has approved several more escalations, and the current total of 97,000 U.S. troops in-country is more than double the number stationed there in 2008.
And dramatic activity on Wednesday crystallized some of the developments in the war since that first surge — the dramatic rise in U.S. air strikes, the increased use of improvised explosive devices by Taliban and insurgents and the alarming uptick in U.S. troop deaths and Afghan civilian deaths — amid increasing doubts about the war.
Though some socio-economic measures have improved in the country, from a slightly higher per-capita income to increased school attendance, the small percentage of Afghanis who prefer Taliban rule has more than doubled in the last two years.
The Huffington Post completed a status update of the war in Afghanistan, including conditions in the impoverished country, comparing January 2009 to January 2011. As indicated, some of the statistics reflect available data from the previous year.
|JANUARY 2009||JANUARY 2011||PERCENT CHANGE|
|U.S. Troops||36,000||97,000||+ 169|
|U.S. Troop Deaths||155 (2008)||499 (2010)||+ 222|
|Percent of Troop Deaths Due To IEDs||58||81||+ 23|
|Non-U.S. Troops||31,880||41,983||+ 32|
|Non-U.S. Troop Deaths||140 (2008)||212 (2010)||+ 51|
|Afghan Security Forces||170,000||270,000||+ 59|
|Afghan Civilian Deaths||1,798 (2008)||2,412 (2010)||+ 34|
|Drone Strikes in Pakistan||33 (2008)||118 (2010)||+ 258|
|Opium Production (Hectares)||157,000 (2008)||123,000 (2010)||– 22|
|Per Capita Income||$466 (2008)||$500 (2010)||+ 7|
|Mobile Phone Use (Percent)||22||40||+ 18|
|Children In School (Percent)||50||58||+ 8|
|Afghanis Who View US Presence As Good (Percent)||32||32||0|
|Afghanis Who Prefer Taliban Rule (Percent)||4||9||+ 5|