Tuesday, 1 October 2013

The banality of modern warfare.

For the majority of people outside Afghanistan, the war has largely been forgotten. Operations are winding down, they say, there is talk of peace and, anyway, Syria is a much more pressing issue. In was in that context that I was struck by this news report I read yesterday. In itself, it appears to be nothing unusual - ANSF and Coalition forces killed a number of Taliban fighters overnight in what are termed "clean-up" operations. But look further down the report: "More than 550 militants have been killed and 250 arrested since the beginning of this month".

22 militants killed in Afghan raids in 24 hours: official
KABUL, Sept. 29 (Xinhua) -- Twenty-two militants were killed in operations in Afghanistan, the country's Interior Ministry said Sunday morning.

"In past 24 hours, Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), supported by the NATO-led coalition troops, conducted several cleanup operations in Nangarhar, Faryab, Kandahar, Uruzgan, Herat, Helmand and Nimroz provinces. As a result 22 armed Taliban were killed, 12 wounded and eight others were arrested by the ANSF," the ministry said in a statement providing daily operational updates.
They also found and seized weapons and defused roadside bomb, it noted.
The ANSF has intensified operations against Taliban and other militant groups recently. More than 550 militants had been killed and 250 arrested since beginning this month, according the figure released by the ministry.
In eastern Wardak province, seven Taliban, including a local leader Mawlawi Enhan, were killed in a joint overnight operation in Nirkh district, a provincial government spokesman told Xinhua.
The Taliban insurgent group has not made comments yet.

Every day, week-in, week-out, for months, if not for years, the Afghan defence ministry and the ISAF command have been reporting this level of casualties amongst the Taliban. Assuming that the figures are accurate, it is worth making a few points: first, generally these deaths are not occurring during firefights. They are usually as a result of night raids - where special forces arrive by helicopter in planned operations that are intelligence-led. The aim is to kill known individuals, preferably commanders and facilitators.
Second, seldom do these reports, which are issued on a daily basis, mention the collateral damage - the civilians who get in the way or the faulty intelligence that results in the wrong people being killed or captured. We just have the bland figures. Another month, another 500 or so people killed in Afghanistan.
Just in case you had forgotten the banality of modern, murderous warfare.