Afghanistan Death Toll

Commemorating Afghanistan combat deathsThe NYT has a feature story highlighting the increased death toll in Afghanistan under the headline “500: Deadly U.S. Milestone in Afghan War.”

Oddly, however, that milestone passed some time back and we’re well past it now.

June was the second deadliest month for the military in Afghanistan since the war began, with 23 American deaths from hostilities, compared with 22 in Iraq. July was less deadly, with 20 deaths, compared with six in Iraq. On July 22, nearly seven years after the conflict began on Oct. 7, 2001, the United States lost its 500th soldier in the Afghanistan war.

(The Pentagon says that 563 American service members have died in Operation Enduring Freedom, the umbrella term for the global American-led antiterror campaign that has the Afghanistan war at its center and includes deployments in the Philippines and Africa. Of those deaths, according to an analysis by The New York Times, 510 have occurred in Afghanistan or are directly linked to the war there.)

The piece is generally rambling and incoherent, starting off with an overlong and unrepresentative anecdote. Still, if you force yourself to get through it, you come away with a sense of how the nature of the conflict has evolved, mostly out of the media spotlight, over these nearly seven years.  The number and nature of American fatalities has changed dramatically over that time.

This chart (extracted from a gigantic one at the link) provides a good visualization:

The choice of Friedman Units for the breakdown is unexplained.

FILED UNDER: Afghanistan War, Africa, Uncategorized, , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Someone at the Times noticed the death count, and, like with Iraq, it made them giddy. They have barely covered any of the successes in Afghanistan (just like with Iraq,) but, they love any negative.

  2. Boyd says:

    What’s this here, a nit? Ooh, let me pick at it.

    You’d think a flag at half staff would be more appropriate for this post.

    Ah, that feels better. I just can’t stand an unpicked nit.

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    I don’t think that incoherent is the right word. Rather, surreal. They succeeded in chronicling the history of casualties in Afghanistan with scarcely a mention of the strategic objectives of the war in Afghanistan. Like so much else these days that’s reminiscent of The Red Shoes, at the end of which the ballet shoes of the now-dead ballerina are carried around the stage.

    Providing context isn’t limited to documenting the feelings of grieving parents it also includes explaining why we’re there at all, what the soldiers died trying to achieve, and that’s what’s missing from the piece.

  4. Xanthippas says:

    The piece is generally rambling and incoherent, starting off with an overlong and unrepresentative anecdote.

    Huh, so the death of a soldier, if it’s highlighted in the NY Times in a piece you don’t like, is a “overlong and unrepresentative” anecdote. Whereas if it had been written about a soldier who died in the surge in Iraq, it would be…what? A heart-wrenching story of personal loss suffered by the families of the brave soldiers who died in Iraq (or somesuch?)

    Believe it or not, the editors at the NY Times (and most liberal-leaning pundits, bloggers and activists) have a completely different opinion about Afghanistan; that it’s important to our strategic interests, that it’s still winnable, and that we should focus more attention there both militarily and diplomatically. Instead of addressing this, you write a post whining about the coverage of Afghanistan because-I suppose-you think that the NY Times thinks that we’re losing and should get out. It would be just as easy to say that this piece highlights the under-the-radar development of the war in Afghanistan, and how it’s getting more attention because fatalities are increasing and attacks on coalitions troops are getting bolder and more spectacular. Which actually IS what the article is trying to say, as you’ll note if you take your blinders off.

    Responses like this are quite indicative of the “if it ain’t Iraq, we ain’t interested” approach of the right over the last few years. To that I say, if you have nothing more to say about how we can win the war in Afghanistan (or get out, if you feel that way) other than complaining about media coverage, then stop writing about it and leave it to those of us who think this conflict is dire enough for us to actually take it seriously.

  5. James Joyner says:

    The anecdote is overlong and unrepresentative because it takes several paragraphs, is sui generis (the parents have a digital video of their son’s demise), and has next to nothing to do with the overall story.

    It buried the lede about the important transformation of the nature of the conflict. You really have to slog through a poorly written article to get to the useful information in that regard.