West's Afghan Debacle: Commander Dismissed As War Deaths Reach Record Level
On June 23 President Barack Obama announced the dismissal of General Stanley McChrystal, commander of all foreign troops in Afghanistan, and within hours Associated Press reported that the Western military death toll in the country had reached at least 80 so far this month, making June NATO's deadliest month in a war that will enter its tenth calendar year on October 7.
McChrystal, appointed on June 15 of last year as top commander of all U.S. and all NATO-led International Security Assistance Force troops in the South Asian war zone - currently 142,000 with thousands more on the way - was to have led the largest assault of the war this month in the province and capital city of Kandahar.
The campaign, which was to have consisted of 25,000 U.S., NATO and Afghan government troops, appears to have been postponed indefinitely and may in fact never occur.
The Kandahar offensive was planned as the culmination of McChrystal's much-vaunted counterinsurgency strategy that was inaugurated in earnest on February 13 of this year with Operation Moshtarak in the Marjah district of Kandahar's neighboring province, Helmand.
In that operation at least 15,000 U.S., British, French, Canadian and Afghan National Army troops poured into a district that has been described as a loose aggregation of small agricultural hamlets and other communities with a combined population as low as 50,000. A CBS News report of February 9 stated 30,000 troops were to be involved in the U.S. Marine-led offensive.  One major Western news agency estimated that the amount of insurgents confronting the 15,000-30,000 NATO and Afghan government forces was as low as 200.
Far from overwhelming and quickly subjugating the area, however, the Western troops and their Afghan subordinates, the latter reluctantly dragooned into service for the attack, encountered fierce and intractable resistance.
Having taken the rural district by storm and, to employ the Pentagon parlance faithfully passed on by the mainstream media, eliminated the last pockets of resistance, the U.S. and NATO victory soon evaporated with the West's inability to pacify Marjah for transfer to the control of the Hamid Karzai regime in Kabul.
The prototype for not only the largest but what was planned as the decisive military offensive of the long-drawn-out war preparatory to the White House's pledged withdrawal of troops starting next year - the assault on the insurgent stronghold of Kandahar - evidently fared poorly enough for the latter offensive to be delayed if not scrapped.
Even without an operation in Kandahar, though, the West has already lost 80 soldiers in Afghanistan this month, the most since July of 2009 when 79 U.S. and NATO personnel were killed, with almost half of this month's fatalities being non-American.
To employ one of the expressions from the cliche' book of Western journalism, several grim milestones have been reached this month. U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan have officially surpassed the 1,000 mark. The Pentagon has now been conducting the longest sustained combat operations in the history of the United States, exceeding in duration those in Vietnam from 1964-1973.
The British death toll has reached at least 303, more than in any other conflict since the 1950s. Australia lost three soldiers on June 21, the most deaths in one day the nation has suffered after its role in supporting the U.S. in Vietnam.
Romania, a new NATO member which will soon have over 1,600 troops in Afghanistan, lost two soldiers on June 23. "Romania began to send troops to Afghanistan in July 2002. The action was the country's first military mission abroad after the Second World War." 
On June 6 a rocket attack on the Polish forward operating base in Ghazni province wounded four soldiers and on June 12 a similar attack on the same base killed one soldier and wounded eight more. Poland, with 2,600 soldiers serving under NATO in Afghanistan and another 400 held in reserve for deployment there, has lost 17 soldiers in one of the country's first two overseas military operations - Iraq being the other - in its history and its first combat role since the Second World War.
As for NATO as a whole, the Afghan mission has achieved three major precedents: The first armed conflict outside of Europe, the first ground war and the first combat deaths (several hundred such) in the military bloc's 61-year history.
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