Our latest quarterly chart has, for the first time, data on three of the four countries along what might be called the “axis of anxiety” stretching from Iraq to Iran to Afghanistan to Pakistan.
First, a word on Iraq. It may surprise many Americans that more United States troops remain there than in the rest of the Pentagon’s Central Command zone combined. But despite several worrisome developments this year, including the twin car bombings in Baghdad on Aug. 19 that killed well over 100 people, violence has not worsened this year on balance. The country remains between peace and war, closer to the former if still very troubled.
In Afghanistan, the top American commander, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, has delivered sober assessments of the deteriorating security environment there and asked for more troops. Indeed, the Taliban and other armed groups are now active in at least 140 of Afghanistan’s 368 districts, whereas they had been present in at most a couple of dozen a few years ago. While deaths among NATO and Afghan forces have increased, civilian fatalities, fortunately, have not – at least relative to 2008.
Pakistan is probably doing better than Afghanistan this year. Pakistani forces last spring drove out a majority of Pakistani Taliban from the Swat Valley. Combined American and Pakistani intelligence efforts led to the fatal strike in August against Pakistan’s top Taliban leader, Baitullah Mehsud. But to use the lexicon of American counterinsurgents, while there has been some clearing and some holding, there has been little yet in the way of building up viable state structures in the North-West Frontier Province, Baluchistan and the tribal areas.
|Data For Iraq||August 2005||August 2007||August 2009|
|Iraqi Civilian Deaths from War||3,300||2,000||300|
|Iraqi Security Force Deaths||282||76||42|
|U.S. Troop Deaths||85||84||7|
|U.S. Troops in Iraq||138,000||162,000||130,000|
|Iraqi Security Forces||183,000||360,000||650,000|
|Crude Oil Production (in millions of barrels per day)||2.15||1.9||2.5|
|Electricity Production (average megawatts, official grid; prewar: 4,000)||4,000||4,400||6,500|
|Data for Afghanistan||August 2005||August 2007||August 2009|
|Afghan Civilian Deaths from War||20||66||100|
|U.S. and NATO Coalition Deaths||33||34||76|
|Afghan Security Forces||55,000||125,000||175,000|
|Foreign Troops in Afghanistan||26,000||60,000||102,000|
|Afghanistan’s Global Rank for Corruption (out of 180 nations; source: Transparency International)||117||172||176|
|Telephone Subscribers (in millions)||2.2||5.6||8.0|
|Children in School (in millions)||4.7||5.5||6.3|
|Annual Economic Growth Rate (percent)||15||20||10|
|Data for Pakistan||August 2005||August 2007||August 2009|
|Number of Suicide Attacks (yearly)||4||60||65|
|Number of Aerial Drone Attacks by U.S. (yearly)||1||5||60|
|Pakistan’s Global Rank for Corruption (out of 180 nations; source: Transparency International)||144||138||134|
|G.D.P. Real Growth Rate (annual percentage)||7.7||6.0||2.5|
|Government Spending on Education (as percentage of G.D.P.)||2.15||2.5||2.1|
|Telephone Lines in Use (in millions)||80||68||92|
|Percentage of Pakistanis Who Say Country Is Heades in Right Direction (source: International Republican Institute)||40||26||18|
|Percentage of Pakistanis Who Say Pakistan Should Cooperate More With U.S. Against Terrorism (source: International Republican Institute)||50||19||37|
View the Op-Chart
(graphic by Amy Unikewicz)
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.
What do you do when your allies [like Pakistan] are part of the problem? The desire to turn our backs on these people is there, but then you worry that terrorists will have more operational freedom and it will cost you more in the long run.