The US army is ending its occupation of Afghanistan after 13 years, the longest-running war in US history.
President Barack Obama has said that by 2017 fewer than 10,000 US troops will remain in the country.
In the absence of a signed Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the Afghan government, which would allow US troops to remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014, the drawdown could be even more rapid than anticipated.
With war still ravaging parts of Afghanistan, a half-million internally displaced people, and the country’s political structure in a tailspin, what are the costs of a war when the dust refuses to settle?
From the US invasion of Afghanistan in November 2001, up until the end of the presidency of George W Bush, US troop levels remained relatively consistent, with most of the country’s resources from 2003 onwards taken up by the war in Iraq.
Two months after he took office in 2009, however, US President Barack Obama ordered additional forces into Afghanistan, heralding the start of a ‘surge’ of ground troops that peaked at more than 100,000 in mid-2011.
Since 2011, coalition forces – or the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) - have been slowly handing responsibility over for the safety of Afghanistan to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), made up of the Afghan National Army, the Afghan National Police, and the Afghan Air Force.
Questions have continued to arise, however, about the readiness of ANSF to run security operations in the country. And the introduction and growth of the Afghan Local Police, trained and funded by the US and UK, has been criticised by organisations such as Human Rights Watch as using “militias” of locals to control the provinces.
In August 2014, Major General Harold Greene became the highest ranking US Army officer to be killed in either Afghanistan or Iraq. He was killed in a so-called “green-on-blue” attack, when a member of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) turns on Coalition troops.
Insider attacks peaked in 2012, just as US forces began a post-surge withdrawal, lowering troop levels from more than 100,000 to about 70,000 over the course of 12 months.
With increasing reliance being placed on the strength and professionalism of ANSF, insider attacks, such as the one that killed Gen. Greene, have been steadily eroding confidence in the Afghan forces’ ability to keep the country secure and to prevent infiltration by the Taliban into its ranks.
As of September 2014, there had been 2,206 US forces deaths in Afghanistan, with an additional 19,984 service personnel wounded during Operation Enduring Freedom. US deaths make up 66 percent of fatalities suffered by coalition forces, which currently stands at 3,366.
Photography: John D McHugh
Design: Alia Chughtai
Content Curation: Philippa Stewart
Brookings Institution, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, New York Times, Islamabad Policy Research Institute, Long War Journal, US Department of Defense, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, Institute for the Study of War, Project 2049 Institute
US military personnel have been killed in the war in Afghanistan, out of a total of
Coalition forces to have died.
This peak heralded the beginning of the US military’s surge in numbers throughout 2011.
ANSF have suffered heavy fatalities during operations in Afghanistan, with the majority coming in the past three years during which time control of operations was passed from the coalition forces to the ANA and ANP.
The high number of fatalities and injuries has contributed to falling personnel levels in the ANSF, as has the number of men leaving the service without permission.
Insider attacks took place in 2012, making up about 15 percent of Coalition deaths.
percent of green-on-blue attacks take place on military bases.
people have died in insider attacks since 2008; a further 212 have been injured.
By June 2011 there were
As of mid-2014, US troop levels had fallen to
but still made up more than half of the total coalition troop levels in the country.
US troops in Afghanistan - the
peak of the military surge.
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Boots on the ground
The human cost of war
deaths were caused by
improvised explosive devices.
The most deaths in a single year was in 2010, when
US troops, and a total of
Coalition forces, were killed.
Between 2001 and February 2014,
members of ANSF were killed, and
In January 2014,
Between January and November 2013,
ANA troops were absent without leave.
ANA personnel left the service at the end of their tenure.
US troop casualties
ANSF and ALP casualties
Civilians seem to have paid the heaviest price in the Afghan war, and the death toll of those not involved in the conflict continues to rise.
Civilian deaths in the first six months of 2014 rose to the highest levels since 2011, and more than doubled from the same period in 2009 when monitoring began. This increase was largely because of fighting on the ground in civilian areas.
The Afghanistan Infrastructure Fund has drawn criticism for its ineffective use of the billions of dollars that have been invested so far, ostensibly to rebuild the country.
By December 2013, the US government had invested nearly $45.38bn in ANSF, a force still being questioned for its ability to effectively patrol and tackle the Taliban. The US has said it will not fund the security forces beyond 2018.
During the first six months of 2014,
civilians were killed and
in the Afghanistan Reconstruction Fund, and further funding has been pledged up to the end of 2017.
The US has invested about
in the country, including more than
US funding in Afghanistan reached its peak in 2010, when it invested more than
In a 2014 report, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, (SIGAR) described Afghanistan as “one of the most corrupt countries in the world”.
Arguably the most obvious failure of the Afghan Reconstruction Fund has been its campaign to eradicate poppy and the production of opium in Afghanistan. More Afghan land is now used to cultivate poppy than was the case in 2002.
Despite a counter-narcotics investment of about $8bn, the production of opium actually increased between 2012 and 2013, while the amount seized dropped to its lowest levels since 2008. Beyond this, at least two provinces that had previously been declared “poppy free” by the eradication programme were found to still be growing the flower.
into security programmes.
of poppy were cultivated, while
between 2012 and 2013.
The US has invested about
in counter-narcotic programmes since 2002.
There was a major increase of opiate cultivation in Helmand and Kandahar in 2013.
Balkh and Faryab provinces lost their poppy-free status in 2013,leaving 15 provinces poppy-free.
Poppy cultivation increased to
hectares in 2013 from
hectares in 2013 from
The number of counter-narcotics operations in the country declined by
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