And so another year has passed. Today is our 4,384th day in Afghanistan.
We'll start this morning as we always do: with the latest casualty figures from our ongoing war, courtesy of Antiwar.com:
US Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 2,276
Other Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 1,105
We find this morning's cost of war
passing through: $1, 478, 832, 850, 000 .00
I want you to go back and read the casualty figures again. Although not as high as our costs in blood in Iraq, the number is still too high. But it's also not been moving much. Perhaps we've finally figured out how to fight in Afghanistan so our troops can still do their jobs and stay as safe as one can on a battlefield. But then I want you to ponder that more soldiers died by their own hands
this year than on any battlefield. Clearly, we're not doing something right here.
More soldiers have died by their own hand than in battle this year, as the Army continues to fight the elusive enemy that also claimed more lives in 2012 than combat in Afghanistan.
So far this year, 106 active-duty soldiers and 102 reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty are believed to have committed suicide, the Army announced Oct. 1.
In comparison, 91 U.S. troops — 80 of them soldiers — died supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
The Army continues to focus on suicide prevention, but the results appear to be mixed, with potential improvement among active-duty soldiers but an alarming increase in the numbers among reserve component soldiers who are not on active duty.
On Oct. 1, the Army announced there were 12 suspected suicides among active-duty soldiers in August, seven fewer than the month before.
Two of the 12 deaths have been confirmed as suicides and the others are still under investigation.
In July, the Army reported as many as 19 suicides among active-duty soldiers; three have been confirmed and the others are still under investigation.
So far this year, as many as 106 soldiers are believed to have committed suicide. Of those, 51 deaths have been confirmed as suicides.
This is a decrease from 2012; this time last year, the Army reported as many as 131 suicides among active-duty soldiers.
Despite the bad news, there is small cause for optimism regarding Afghanistan. Very quietly, the Pentagon has been withdrawing troops
. More than 12,000 of them got the welcome news this year that they'd be going home. We're also slowly but surely winding down offensive operations as we prepare to get out of there in a year or so.
The Pentagon has quietly removed nearly 12,000 troops from Afghanistan during the past several months, scaling back the military’s combat power before the end of the fighting season.
U.S. troop levels have fallen nearly 20 percent, from 66,000 in April down to about 54,500 in late September, Pentagon data show.
Meanwhile, U.S. military operations in Afghanistan are slowing. In August, the U.S. military conducted 158 close-air support missions that dropped weapons, less than half of the 368 sorties that released weapons in May, according to Air Force numbers.
Military officials say the drawdown is part of a gradual reduction to meet President Obama’s target for getting troop levels down to less than 34,000 by February.
It also signals a fundamental shift in the U.S. mission there from directly fighting the Taliban insurgency to supporting the Afghan troops who now plan and conduct combat missions independently.
But despite the downturn, and the overall quietness in the Afghan theatre of operations, there is always a dark side. I want to shift over to a place we rarely visit now, Iraq. Almost unknown and unreported, sectarian violence continues almost unabated in the disaster area we left behind when we pulled out. More than a thousand Iraqis have been killed
in sectarian violence this past month, which is the worst it's ever been.
BAGHDAD — An Iraqi sheik cradled his grandson’s tightly wrapped body Tuesday, his face grim and his eyes downcast, trailed by men bearing the coffin of the infant’s mother.
The mother and son were killed the day before by a bombing in Baghdad — two among nearly 1,000 Iraqi lives lost to violence in September. The heartbreaking image, captured in an Associated Press photo, illuminates the human tragedy behind the numbers.
Sectarian bloodshed has surged to levels not seen in Iraq since 2008. More than 5,000 people have been killed since April, when a deadly government raid on a Sunni protest camp unleashed a new round of violence that showed al-Qaida in Iraq is still strong despite years of U.S.-Iraqi offensives against the terror group.
At least 979 people — 887 civilians and 92 soldiers and national policemen — were killed in September, a 22 percent increase from the previous month, the U.N. mission in Iraq said Tuesday. Baghdad was hit hardest, with 418 violent deaths. The U.N. also reported that 2,133 people were wounded nationwide in the relentless car bombings, suicide attacks and shootings.
The spike reversed a brief decline to 804 in August after the death toll reached 1,057 in July, the highest since June 2008 when 975 people were killed.
It's another one of those weeks where I could keep going....but I'll stop for now.