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Monday, February 28, 2011

Afghanistan Casualties: Military Forces and Civilians

Susan G. Chesser
Information Research Specialist

This report collects statistics from a variety of sources on casualties sustained during Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), which began on October 7, 2001, and is ongoing. OEF actions take place primarily in Afghanistan; however, OEF casualties also includes American casualties in Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Guantanamo Bay (Cuba), Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, the Philippines, Seychelles, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Yemen.

Casualty data of U.S. military forces are compiled by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), as tallied from the agency’s press releases. Also included are statistics on those wounded but not killed. Statistics may be revised as circumstances are investigated and as records are processed through the U.S. military’s casualty system. More frequent updates are available at DOD’s website at http://www.defenselink.mil/news/ under “Casualty Update.”

A detailed casualty summary of U.S. military forces that includes data on deaths by cause, as well as statistics on soldiers wounded in action, is available at the following DOD website: http://siadapp.dmdc.osd.mil/personnel/CASUALTY/castop.htm. NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) does not post casualty statistics of the military forces of partner countries on the ISAF website at http://www.isaf.nato.int/. ISAF press releases state that it is ISAF policy to defer to the relevant national authorities to provide notice of any fatality. For this reason, this report uses fatality data of coalition forces as compiled by CNN.com and posted online at http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2004/oef.casualties/index.html


Reporting on casualties of Afghans did not begin until 2007, and a variety of entities now report the casualties of civilians and security forces members. The United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) reports casualty data of Afghan civilians semiannually, and the U.S. Department of Defense occasionally includes civilian casualty figures within its reports on Afghanistan. The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, http://www.aihrc.org.af/2010_eng/, and the Afghan Rights Monitor, http://www.arm.org.af/, are local watchdog organizations that periodically publish reports regarding civilian casualties. From July 2009 through April 2010, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) included statistics of casualties of members of the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police in its quarterly reports to Congress. SIGAR has ceased this practice, and there is no other published compilation of these statistics. This report now derives casualty figures of Afghan soldiers and police from the press accounts of the Reuters “Factbox: Security Developments in Afghanistan” series, the Pajhwok Afghan News agency. Both services attribute their reported information to officials of the NATO-led ISAF or local Afghan officials. Pajhwok Afghan News frequently concludes its accounts with statements from representatives of the Taliban, however, these figures are not included in this report. 


Because the estimates of Afghan casualties contained in this report are based on varying time periods and have been created using different methodologies, readers should exercise caution when using them and should look to them as guideposts rather than as statements of fact.



Date of Report: February 17, 2011
Number of Pages: 6
Order Number: R41084
Price: $19.95

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Iraq: Politics, Elections, and Benchmarks


Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

Iraq’s political system is increasingly characterized by peaceful competition and formation of cross-sectarian alliances, although ethnic and sectarian infighting continues, sometimes involving the questionable use of key levers of power and legal institutions. This infighting—and the belief that holding political power may mean the difference between life and death for the various political communities—significantly delayed agreement on a new government that was to be selected following the March 7, 2010, national elections for the Council of Representatives (COR, parliament). With U.S. intervention, on November 10, 2010, major ethnic and sectarian factions agreed on a framework for a new government, breaking the long deadlock. Their agreement, under which Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki would serve another term, was implemented in the presentation by him of a broad-based cabinet on December 21, 2010, in advance of a December 25 constitutional deadline. The participation of all major factions in the new government, while stabilizing politically, could complicate efforts to pass key outstanding legislation crucial to attracting foreign investment, such as national hydrocarbon laws. However, there may be early indications that the new government is acting on long stalled initiatives, including year long tensions over Kurdish exports of oil.

The difficulty in reaching agreement on a government had multiple causes that could still cause instability over the long term. With the results certified, a mostly Sunni Arab-supported “Iraqiyya” slate of former Prime Minister Iyad al-Allawi unexpectedly gained a plurality of 91 of the 325 COR seats up for election. Maliki’s State of Law slate won 89, and a rival Shiite coalition was third with 70, of which about 40 seats are held by supporters of Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr. The main Kurdish parties, again allied, won 43 seats. On the basis of his first place showing, Allawi had demanded to be given the first opportunity to form a government. However, his bloc was unable to win the allegiance of the Shiite blocs, and Iraqiyya reluctantly agreed to join a government headed again by Maliki. Sunni fears that Maliki and his allies seek to monopolize power remain, as do the concerns of the Kurds that Maliki will not honor pledges to resolve Kurd-Arab territorial and financial disputes.

Iran, which exercises major influence over the Shiite factions in Iraq, worked, with some success, to ensure that pro-Iranian Shiites continue lead the government. However, the inclusion of Allawi’s bloc in several key posts, and the factional inclusiveness of the new cabinet, indicates that Iran did not meet all of its objectives. Iran may have hoped to increase its influence in Iraq after a key ally, Sadr, returned to Iraq on January 5, 2011, following three years of exile for religious studies in Iran, but Sadr reportedly returned to Iran at the end of January 2011. Although some Iraqi communities, including Christians, have been targeted by attacks in late 2010 and early 2011, the overall human rights situation in Iraq appears to remain at levels vastly improved from those at the height of sectarian conflict (2006-2008).

Questions remain over the political and security situation that will obtain when U.S. forces depart Iraq at the end of 2011, in keeping with a 2008 U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement. U.S. forces have dropped to 50,000, from a 2008 high of 170,000, with the formal end of the U.S. combat mission on August 31, 2010. Continuing high profile attacks, although sporadic and relatively infrequent, have caused some experts to question whether security will deteriorate to the point where Iraq becomes a “failed state” after 2011, unless Iraq requests the continued presence of U.S. forces after that time. Some question the ability of the U.S. State Department to secure its facilities and personnel and to carry out its mission on its own, without direct U.S. military participation.



Date of Report: February 7, 2011
Number of Pages: 34
Order Number: RS21968
Price: $29.95

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Afghanistan: Politics, Elections, and Government Performance


Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

The limited capacity and widespread corruption of all levels of Afghan governance are growing factors in debate over the effectiveness of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, as expressed in an Administration assessment of policy released December 16, 2010. A competent, respected, and effective Afghan government is considered a major prerequisite for a transition to Afghan leadership that is to take place by 2014, a timeframe agreed to by the United States, its international partners, and the Afghan government. Afghan governing capacity has increased significantly since the Taliban regime fell in late 2001, but many positions, particularly at the local level, are unfilled or governing functions are performed by unaccountable power brokers. On corruption, the issue that perhaps most divides the United States from the government of President Hamid Karzai, the Afghan leadership is accepting U.S. help to build emerging anticorruption institutions, but these same institutions have sometimes caused a Karzai backlash when they have targeted his allies or relatives. Effects of corruption burst into public view in August 2010 when the large Kabul Bank nearly collapsed due in part to losses on large loans to major shareholders, many of whom are close to Karzai. Some in Congress have sought to link further U.S. aid to clearer progress on the corruption issue.

Purportedly suspicious that U.S. and other donors are trying to undermine his leadership, Karzai has strengthened his bonds to ethnic and political faction leaders who might be willing to undermine the political process to gain or retain power. These alliances, although a consistent feature of Afghan politics long predating the 30-year period of instability there, compound continuing international concerns about Afghan democracy and political transparency. In the August 20, 2009, presidential election, there were widespread charges of fraud, many substantiated by an Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC). The ECC invalidated nearly onethird of President Karzai’s votes, although Karzai’s main challenger dropped out of a runoff and Karzai was declared the winner. Many of the flaws that plagued the 2009 election recurred in the parliamentary elections held September 18, 2010. The alleged fraud was purportedly addressed openly by Afghan election bodies, but Karzai and his allies apparently sought, unsuccessfully, to use their institutional powers to annul the results or alter them in their favor. This provoked a crisis in which declared winners threatened to convene in defiance of Karzai; he bowed to the pressure and swore in the declared winners on January 26, 2011. The new upper house has not been seated to date.

Electoral competition aside, there is growing ethnic and political fragmentation over a variety of issues, including the terms of a potential settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan. Some leaders of minority communities fear a dilution of their role in government under any settlement that reintegrates Afghan militants, who are almost all of Pashtun ethnicity, into the government. Women, who have made substantial gains in government and the private sector, fear their rights may be abridged under any “deal” that might erode legal protections for women. Women have made substantial gains since the fall of the Taliban but many organizations report substantial backsliding, particularly in areas where the insurgency operates. Traditional attitudes also continue to prevail, with implications such as slowing efforts to curb such practices as child marriages, court judgments against converts from Islam to Christianity, and cleric-driven curbs on the sale of alcohol and Western-oriented programming in the burgeoning Afghan media. See also CRS Report RL30588, Afghanistan: Post-Taliban Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy, by Kenneth Katzman; CRS Report R40747, United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan: Background and Policy Issues, by Rhoda Margesson; and CRS Report R41484, Afghanistan: U.S. Rule of Law and Justice Sector Assistance, by Liana Sun Wyler and Kenneth Katzman.



Date of Report: February 10, 2011
Number of Pages: 58
Order Number: RS21922
Price: $29.95

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Kuwait: Security, Reform, and U.S. Policy


Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

Kuwait has been pivotal to nearly two decades of U.S. efforts to reduce a threat posed by Iraq. After U.S. forces liberated Kuwait from Iraqi invading forces in February 1991, Kuwait was the central location from which the United States contained Saddam during 1991-2003, and it hosted the bulk of the U.S.-led force that invaded Iraq in March 2003 to remove Saddam from power. It is the key route through U.S. troops have been withdrawing from during 2009-2011. Kuwait’s relations with the current government of Iraq are hampered, in part, by issues not fully resolved from the August 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, although a January 12, 2011, visit by the Kuwaiti Prime Minister appeared to represent a major, at least symbolic, breakthrough. With the strategic threat from Iraq sharply reduced, Kuwait is cooperating with U.S.-led efforts to contain Iranian power in the Gulf. At the same time, like the other Gulf monarchy states, Kuwait seeks to maintain normal economic and political relations with Iran so as not to provoke Iran or cause it to increase its support to pro-Iranian movements in Kuwait.

Although Kuwait remains a staunch U.S. ally, it is troubled domestically. For the past five years, wrangling between the elected National Assembly and the ruling Al Sabah family primarily over the political dominance and alleged corruption of the Al Sabah has brought virtual political paralysis to Kuwait. In March 2009, the infighting led to the second constitutional dissolution of the National Assembly in one year, setting up new parliamentary elections on May 16, 2009. That produced an Assembly that was considered more pro-government, and included four women, the first to be elected to the Assembly in Kuwait since women were given the vote in 2005. However, over the subsequent two years, the Assembly has turned against the ruling family, producing two unsuccessful attempts (the most recent on January 5, 2011) to vote no confidence in Prime Minister Shaykh Nasser al-Muhammad al-Ahmad Al Sabah.

The political deadlock has prevented breaking long-standing legislative and regulatory logjams holding up key energy projects, including some projects involving major foreign energy firms. The political infighting has also tarnished Kuwait’s reputation in the Persian Gulf as a model of protections of rule of law and human rights as the Al Sabah have turned to increasingly harsh measures to suppress dissent. These measures have included beatings of demonstrators and imprisonments of journalists. However, Kuwait’s tradition of vibrant civil society and expression of opinion led to the resignation of the Interior Minister, held responsible for repressive measures, on February 7, 2011, in advance of a planned public demonstration.

On other regional issues, the political stalemate in Kuwait has contributed to a tendency among Kuwaiti leaders to defer to Saudi Arabia and other more active Gulf states. Kuwait has not attempted to take a leading role in mediating disputes within the Palestinian territories or to try to determine Iran’s role in Gulf security and political arrangements.



Date of Report: February 8, 2011
Number of Pages: 18
Order Number: RS21513
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Monday, February 14, 2011

Yemen: Background and U.S. Relations

Jeremy M. Sharp
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

Large protests and President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s attempts to preempt a broad crisis with concessions have concentrated U.S. and international attention on the daunting array of political and development challenges facing Yemen. With limited natural resources, a crippling illiteracy rate, and high population growth, some observers believe Yemen is at risk for becoming a failed state. In 2009, Yemen ranked 140 out of 182 countries on the United Nations Development Program’s Human Development Index, a score comparable to the poorest sub-Saharan African countries. Over 43% of the population of nearly 24 million people lives below the poverty line, and per capita GDP is estimated to be between $650 and $800. Yemen is largely dependent on external aid from Persian Gulf countries, Western donors, and international financial institutions, though its per capita share of assistance is below the global average.

As the country’s population rapidly rises, resources dwindle, terrorist groups take root in the outlying provinces, and a southern secessionist movement grows, the Obama Administration and the 112
th Congress are left to grapple with the consequences of Yemeni instability. Unrest in Tunisia and Egypt has amplified existing political tension in Yemen, as opposition protestors and government supporters struggle to influence developments in the run-up to Yemen’s 2013 presidential election. Traditionally, U.S.-Yemeni relations have been tepid, as the lack of strong military-to-military partnership, trade relations, and cross cultural exchanges has hindered the development of close bilateral ties. During the early years of the Bush Administration, relations improved under the rubric of the war against Al Qaeda, though Yemen’s lax policy toward wanted terrorists and U.S. concerns about governance and corruption have stalled large-scale U.S. support.

Over the past several fiscal years, Congress has appropriated an average of $20 to $25 million annually for Yemen in total U.S. foreign aid. In FY2010, Yemen is receiving $58.4 million in aid. The Defense Department also is providing Yemen’s security forces with $150 million worth of training and equipment for FY2010. For FY2011, the Obama Administration requested $106 million in U.S. economic and military assistance to Yemen.

As President Obama and the 112
th Congress reassess U.S. policy toward the Arab world, the opportunity for improved U.S.-Yemeni ties is strong, though tensions persist over counterterrorism cooperation. In recent years, the broader U.S. foreign policy community has not adequately focused on Yemen, its challenges, and their potential consequences for U.S. foreign policy interests beyond the realm of counterterrorism.

The failed bomb attack against Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day 2009 once again highlighted the potential for terrorism emanating from Yemen, a potential that periodically emerges to threaten U.S. interests both at home and abroad. Whether terrorist groups in Yemen, such as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), have a long-term ability to threaten U.S. homeland security may determine the extent of U.S. resources committed to counterterrorism and stabilization efforts there. Some believe these groups lack such capability and fear the United States might overreact; others assert that Yemen is gradually becoming a failed state and safe haven for Al Qaeda operatives and as such should be considered an active theater for U.S. counterterrorism operations. Given Yemen’s contentious political climate and its myriad development challenges, most long-time Yemen watchers suggest that security problems emanating from Yemen may persist in spite of increased U.S. or international efforts to combat them.



Date of Report: February 3, 2011
Number of Pages: 46
Order Number: RL34170
Price: $29.95

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