FRONTLINE
The Afghan Toll Image Credit: FRONTLINE
The Afghan Toll Image Credit: FRONTLINE

The Afghan Toll

The U.S. has little to show for its long engagement inAfghanistan. And if the Taliban returns to power, it will be a major blow to U.S. prestige. Every contingency will be taken to prevent that outcome, even the destruction of Afghanistan.

Vijay Prashad

THE AMERICAN WAR IN AFGHANISTAN WILL soon enter its 16th year. Over this period, the United States and its allies have lost close to 3,000 soldiers,while an unknown number of Afghans have died. The official figure for the Afghan dead, above 150,000, is laughable.

Each year, as the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) finds, the percentage of women and children among the official death toll increases, many of the deaths a result of aerial bombardment. Afghan sources say that the number of war dead must be near the million mark. The human toll has been considerable. In 2016, over half a million people fled their homes because of the conflict. This is the highest number of displacements since 2008. Of the estimated population of 32 million Afghans, almost two million have been displaced by the conflict; about three million are refugees from the almost 40 years of war in the country. In the five months that ended in May, UNAMA found that already 90,000 people had been displaced.

The “spring offensive” of the Taliban began with a burst. On April 21, a handful of Taliban fighters infiltrated the Afghan National Army’s 209th Corps base in Balkh, a province in northern Afghanistan. They killed 140 Afghan soldiers. It was a devastating attack, which came a week after the U.S. dropped the 21,600-pound (9,798-kg) Mother of All Bombs (MOAB), the largest non-nuclear bomb in the world, on Nangarhar, Afghanista


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