Violence in Afghanistan spiked in 2010 in light of the U.S. “surge,” its targeting of the Taliban, and growing attacks on Afghan civilians. Attacks reached an all time high since the U.S. invaded in 2001, according to the group Afghanistan Rights Monitor (ARM). ARM estimates that more than 1,000 civilians have been killed this year, with another 1,500 injured, while the Taliban “has become more resilient, multi-structured and deadly.”
The U.S. is said to be responsible for approximately one third of all the civilian deaths, although Taliban forces were found to have incited more than 60 percent of all deaths. The recent ARM report from this month represents an important admission from those on the ground that the U.S. promise to help “stabilize” Afghanistan and reduce violence and terrorism remain more rhetoric than reality. The 140,000 troops the U.S. has added to Afghanistan appear to have increased the threat to Afghans by causing an escalation of violence to the point where the country is further spiraling out of control.
Recent social indicators from the United Nations indicate that Afghanistan remains one of the worst off countries in the world. Life expectancy is at a pitiful 44 years, as the country ranks the second lowest in this area (behind only Niger) in all countries throughout the globe. The 2009 UN Human Development Index finds that Afghanistan remains in the bottom 10 percent of countries in terms of its Gross Domestic Product, in the bottom 20 percent in terms of literacy, in the bottom four percent in life expectancy, and in the bottom 30 percent in child malnutrition. Afghanistan excels in one area, however: outmigration. Afghanistan actually finishes in the top 30 percent of countries in terms of people leaving the country, a damning indication of the dangers civilians face throughout the U.S.-NATO occupation.
The Afghan war’s popularity is at a historic low as of mid 2010. Americans appear to be recognizing that the situation in the country is not improving, but in fact worsening in terms of Afghan civilian and U.S. soldiers’ lives lost. Growing public opposition is a testament to the weakness of Obama’s rhetorical defense of the war, which is becoming less convincing each day. According to Newsweek polling, the percent of Americans opposing Obama’s handling of the war increased by a whopping 26 percent from just 27 percent of Americans in February to 55 percent in June. According to Washington Post-ABC polling, while 52 percent of Americans thought the war was “worth fighting” immediately following Obama’s December 2009 speech, that figure fell to 44 percent by early June 2010. General opposition to the war as not “worth” it reached a majority of Americans by April of this year.
U.S. casualties throughout 2010 have been the worst in the war’s history. They averaged 32 per month, compared to the average of 26 per month in 2009 and 13 deaths per month in 2009. U.S. casualty rates have actually increased steadily every year since 2001, a sign of the increasing toll the war is exacting on the American people. The story of growing U.S. deaths, however, has remained largely under the radar in the American press, which has rarely featured any stories about the historical levels casualties since it first emphasized the topic in late 2009. It appears that journalists have learned well the lesson not to “rock the boat” for a war in which both parties are strongly supportive, despite the growing public rebellion.
ANTHONY DiMAGGIO is the editor of media-ocracy (www.media-ocracy.com), a daily online magazine devoted to the study of media, public opinion, and current events. He is the author of When Media Goes to War (2010) and Mass Media, Mass Propaganda (2008). He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org