US-led reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan since 2002 are linked to the deaths or injuries of more than 5,100 people in addition to more than $130 billion in financial costs, according to a new report on America’s longest war.
Some 2,214 people were killed and another 2,921 wounded while taking part in reconstruction and stabilisation missions across the war-ravaged nation from 2002-2018, according to a report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), a Pentagon watchdog.
The deaths include 284 Americans — 216 US soldiers and 68 American civilians such as government employees or contractors. Over the same period 1,578 Afghans were killed, the vast majority of which were civilians. Some 1,182 people, most of them Afghans, were kidnapped or missing, the report said. The study analysed data received from the US military and other agencies involved in reconstruction work.
The report’s statistics detail the grim state of affairs in Afghanistan almost 19 years after the US invaded to overthrow the Taliban for refusing to give up al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Previous reports by the watchdog showed how enemy-initiated attacks in the country reached their highest level ever in the fourth quarter since data began being collected.
To get the US out of what he calls “endless wars,” President Donald Trump has pressed to reach a peace deal with the Taliban that would allow the US to begin withdrawing troops from a conflict that has cost it about $900 billion.
Despite the loss of life and the exorbitant financial costs of rebuilding the country, Afghanistan remains one of the poorest and most dangerous nations in the world. The US-led reconstruction effort has been undermined by the fact that Taliban militants now appear to be more powerful than any time since they were ousted from power in 2001, now controlling or contesting about half of the country.
For local Afghans, road construction was the most dangerous activity as it left them exposed to suicide bombing, direct enemy attacks or roadside explosions.
Training and mentoring Afghan forces was the most dangerous project for the US and its NATO allies, resulting in 818 casualties — 346 killed and 472 wounded, said the report. That number includes 195 slain Americans, 154 troops and 41 civilians.
Insider attacks, carried out either by Taliban infiltrators or Afghans in army uniforms were behind 276 of the total deaths or injuries.
An Afghan in military uniform killed two US soldiers and one Afghan soldier with a machine gun while visiting an army base in eastern Nangarhar province.