US losing IED war in Afghanistan [atimes]

WASHINGTON – Although the surge of insider attacks on United States-North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces has dominated coverage of the war in Afghanistan in 2012, an even more important story has been quietly unfolding: the US loss to the Taliban of the pivotal war of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Some news outlets published stories this year suggesting that the US military was making progress against the Taliban IED war. These failed to provide the broader context for seasonal trends or had a narrow focus on US fatalities. The bigger reality is that the US troop surge could not reverse the very steep increase in IED attacks and attendant casualties that the Taliban began in 2009 and which continued through 2011.

Over the 2009-11 period, the US military suffered a total of 14,627 casualties, according to the Pentagon’s Defense Casualty Analysis System and iCasualties, a non-governmental organization tracking Iraq and Afghanistan war casualties from published sources.

Of that total, 8,680, or 59%, were from IED explosions, based on data provided by the Pentagon’s Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO). The proportion of all US casualties caused by IEDs continued to increase from 56% in 2009 to 63% in 2011.

The Taliban IED war was the central element of its counter-strategy against the US escalation of the war. It absorbed an enormous amount of the time and energy of US troops, and demonstrated that the counter-insurgency campaign was not effective in reducing the size or power of the insurgency. It also provided constant evidence to the Afghan population that the Taliban had a continued presence even where US troops had occupied former Taliban districts.


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