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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It will take more than cosmetic steps by Pakistan to get the Trump administration to unfreeze security assistance [to Pakistan]. Washington is looking for serious and sustained efforts against the Haqqanis [Haqqani Network], and active measures to incentivize the Taliban to engage in peace talks. I also suspect that any resumption of security assistance would be phased, focusing first on restoring military exchanges and narrowly-targeted counterterrorism assistance programs.
This suspension [of U.S. military aid] will no doubt put pressure on Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves, but I am skeptical that cutting a few hundred million dollars in assistance will induce Pakistan to make significant changes to its security policy. Today’s announcement sends a signal about the U.S. administration’s intent to hold Pakistan to account in the public domain. Whether it accomplishes more than that is yet to be seen.
The suspension [of military aid to Pakistan] is arguably more significant as a signal of Washington’s discontent than as an act of financial deprivation. The Trump administration has likely sketched out an escalation strategy, and would be wise to pause after Thursday’s announcement to give Pakistan the opportunity to quietly address U.S. concerns.