Op-Ed

States of Conflict: An Update

Ian Livingston, Heather Messera, and Michael E. O’Hanlon

In 2009, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan dominated American military and foreign policy. Which themes emerged over the last year?

In Iraq, 2009 was the year of relatively smooth transitions. Despite catastrophic attacks in August, October and December, and a continuing level of violence that keeps it a troubled place by normal standards, the year went reasonably well in statistical terms. Violence did not increase, even as United States forces left the cities and generally reduced their role.

In Pakistan, 2009 was the year of the offensives. The country was still very turbulent, but major government military initiatives in the Swat Valley and South Waziristan reflected a new determination against the Pakistani Taliban. Unfortunately, the Taliban responded in its own brutal way with an intensification of suicide attacks against civilians, killing hundreds.

But momentum may be shifting to the government’s side — helped by successful American drone attacks against top Taliban and Qaeda leaders. That said, in terms of the basic strength of its economy and society, Pakistan is far from out of the woods.

In Afghanistan, 2009 was the year of decisions — by President Obama, of course, by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal and by the Afghan people as they re-elected Hamid Karzai as president. Afghanistan had a bloody year, with more than 300 Americans and some 500 international troops, as well as more than 1,000 Afghan security personnel, losing their lives.

However, as General McChrystal noted in recent Congressional testimony following President Obama’s decision to raise troop levels in Afghanistan, our operations have begun to change the momentum in parts of the country — though this momentum is bound to be halting, as last week’s horrific suicide bombing at a United States base made painfully clear. In the year ahead, the hope is that this fragile progress will continue, and that President Karzai will justify American support by accelerating his efforts to reform the Afghan police force and to root out corruption.

Data For Iraq November 2007 November 2008 November 2009
Iraqi Civilian Deaths from War 750 300 150
Iraqi Security Forces 430,000 558,000 665,000
Iraqi Security Force Deaths 89 27 17
U.S. Troops in Iraq 162,000 148,000 115,000
U.S. Troop Deaths 38 16 11
Electricity Production (average megawatts, official grid; prewar: 4,000) 4,140 5,080 5,710
Telephone Customers (in millions) 10.0 14.5 21.0
Data for Afghanistan November 2007 November 2008 November 2009
Afghan Civilian Deaths from War 130 175 200
Accidental Afghan Civilian Deaths from Government/NATO Fire 50 65 40
Afghan Security Forces 120,000 158,000 190,000
Afghan Security Force Deaths 100 110 110
U.S. Troops in Afghanistan 25,000 32,000 68,000
U.S./Other Allied Troop Fatalities 11/11 1/11 18/14
Poppy Harvest (in tons) 9,000 8,500 7,600
Inflation Rate (annual percentage) 10 10 7
Telephone Customers (in millions) 5.5 6.7 8.0
School Enrollment (in millions) 5.5 5.9 6.4
Favorability Rating of Taliban (percent) 18 10 7
Data for Pakistan November 2007 November 2008 November 2009
Attacks by Insurgents 195 235 200
Aerial Drone Attacks by U.S. (monthly average per year) 1 3 4
Frequency of Google Searches in Pakistan for “Taliban” (relative scale) 12 18 37
G.D.P. Growth Rate (annual percentage) 6.0 6.0 2.5
Inflation Rate (annual percentage) 7.8 12.0 20.0
Government Spending on Education (as percentage of total government budget) 12.0 9.8 11.5
U.S. Aid to Pakistan (in billions of dollars) 1.7 2.0 3.3
Percentage of Pakistanis Considering Al Qaeda a Major Threat 62 70 94


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(graphic by Amy Unikewicz)


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