While the nation has been focused on healthcare and jobs, 2010 has already witnessed a significant spike in the number of injuries and deaths for US troops fighting in Afghanistan. Compared to the first three months of 2009, the number of US troops killed has approximately doubled, while the number of injured US troops has more than tripled over the same period.
After Obama’s first surge last year, the number of US and NATO troops killed in action set a new record in 2009. With a fresh influx of new troops ordered to the area as a result of Obama’s second surge, military officials expect casualties to rise further this year. Thus far, the early trend is fulfilling their prediction.
While some leading military commanders have acknowledged a minimal Al-Qaeda presence in Afghanistan, the Obama administration has instituted two large troop surges to dislodge the Taliban and commence a nation-building effort. In addition, it has recently requested an additional $33 billion to largely fund the latest surge, on top of a record $708 billion military budget.
Despite the substantial increase in troop casualties and the additional strain on a US Treasury mired in $1.6 trillion deficits and $14 trillion of debt, the American people appear to be largely supportive of the war in Afghanistan. The latest AP-Gfk poll showed that 57% of Americans approve of Obama’s handling of the war.
As casualties and budgetary costs continue to escalate, it will be interesting to see if this strong level of public support holds over the coming months.