2011: U.S. And NATO To Extend And Expand Afghan War
The war being waged by the United States and the Western military alliance it controls, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, is well into its tenth year and is already the longest war in the history of the U.S., Afghanistan and NATO alike. In fact it is NATO's first ground war and its first armed conflict in Asia.
It has now graduated into a broader war, having engulfed neighboring Pakistan with a population of 170 million and a nuclear arsenal.
The U.S. has suffered reverses in the past week and half with the death of Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke on December 13 and the recall of the Central Intelligence Agency station chief in Pakistan, Jonathan Banks, on December 16, the day the White House issued its annual policy review on the protracted and increasingly deadly war in Afghanistan.
As of December 23, American and NATO military fatalities for this year are at 705, almost a third of the total 2,275 killed since the war was launched on October 7, 2001.
The Afghan National Army created from scratch by the Pentagon and NATO acknowledged this month that it has lost 806 soldiers so far this year, an increase of 25 percent over 2009.
Earlier this month a report by the United Nations General Assembly documented that Afghan civilian casualties had risen by 20 percent in the first ten months of this year over all of last to a total of 5,480 killed and wounded.
In the past few days Western military forces have intensified lethal air strikes against Afghan civilians and troops, killing four Afghan soldiers in the south of the country in an air attack in the middle of the month, killing a civilian and wounding two children in another air strike in Helmand province during the same time period, and most recently killing a policeman and the brother of a legislator in a helicopter attack in northern Afghanistan on December 23.
The day before the last incident an Afghan provincial governor called on the North Atlantic military bloc "to pay attention to civilian casualities during operations and prevent civilian casualities."  The two deaths on the following day indicate that such appeals fall on deaf ears.
On the other side of the Afghan-Pakistani border, on December 16 three U.S. missile attacks killed an estimated 54 people in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, all identified as "militants" in the Western press. The overwhelming majority of deadly CIA-directed drone attacks have occurred in North Waziristan in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. The attack in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa signals the expansion of the war deeper into the country - "a possible expansion of the CIA-led covert campaign of drone strikes inside Pakistani territory"  - as does a recent NATO helicopter gunship raid into Balochistan province.
Days later NATO oil tankers came under rocket attack in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and "The Pakistan-Afghanistan highway was temporarily blocked and NATO supplies suspended following the attack." 
As in Afghanistan, the killing has increased substantially this year.
In the past year there have been at least 115 U.S. drone attacks in the tribal areas, more than double the amount in 2009, which itself represented a dramatic increase over previous years. In 2009 and 2010 there have been approximately 170 missile strikes in North and South Waziristan, a 300 percent increase over the last four years of the George W. Bush administration. The cumulative death toll is in the neighborhood of 2,000, with close to half of those deaths occurring this year.
The CIA's Jonathan Banks was whisked home from Pakistan after his identity was revealed in a legal action initiated by surviving victims of the drone attacks and their families. The suit also named CIA Director Leon Panetta and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Nothing daunted, the special assistant to the commanding general of U.S. Army Special Operations stated that the current demand for more drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) is "insatiable."
"It's like crack, and everyone wants more," Brigadier General Kevin Mangum recently announced.