Afghanistan Troop Casualties

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

UK troops have been taking a pummelling in Afghanistan in the last few months. 2009 has been the worst year of the conflict for the UK army. 54 soldiers killed killed in action, 45 very seriously wounded.

As ever, when I hear hard numbers, I feel confused. More questions arise. Why is the UK army suffering so much? How are we faring compared to the other armies there? Are we taking a disproportionate amount of casualties? If so, why?

In an effort to find out, I used information on British dead and wounded supplied by The Guardian Datablog as a start point. I was suprised by what I found out…

The basic figures

If you look at the raw numbers, it does indeed seem true. 2009 is the worst year on record. We’re getting pummelled.

British Troop Fatalities In Afghanistan (2006-)

But, if you make the number proportional to the actual number of British troops deployed each year, the picture changes substantially.

British Troop Fatalities In Afghanistan as % of British troops deployed (2006-)

The worst year is actually 2006. Then there were around 3300 UK troops in the arena. Today, in 2009, there are around 8500 troops on the ground, nearly 3 times more. But the casualties are not three times worse. With this in mind, we are doing actually “better” than it appears. Though obviously 2009 is not over.

If seriously wounded troops are also included in the figures, we see again that 2006 took a heavy toll on British forces.

British Troop Fatalities and Seriously Wounded In Afghanistan as % of British troops deployed (2006-)

Bar a terrible disaster, it seems unlikely that 2009 will be the worst year for British forces in Afghanistan. Fingers crossed.

Broadening out

Still, why are British troops getting so hammered? How are they doing compared to other forces in the arena?

Again, on the surface, it seems the US are taking the bulk of the casualties in the war.

Troop Fatalities in Afghanistan (2006-)

However, again, if you re-calculate these figures as a proportion of the actual troops deployed by each country, the picture changes.

Troop Fatalities in Afghanistan as % of troops deployed (2006-)

Canadian forces are actually suffering the most.

And, if you factor in wounded soldiers, a shocking picture emerges.

Troop Fatalities and Wounded in Afghanistan as % of troops deployed (2006-)

This is probably why the Canadian government is not releasing its wounded figures. (It took a leak to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to get the figures).
(Note: these wounded figures also include minor wounds)

All armies

How do the fatality figures stack up compared to other coalition forces taking part in Operating Enduring Freedom?

Coalition Troop Fatalities in Afghanistan (2006-)

In a barely reported statistic, the Afghan army has suffered a shocking 3913 fatalties since 2006.

Looking at these figures, I became curious about private security contractors (i.e. mercenaries) active in Afghanistan.

Troops in Afghanistan (2006-

That’s a huge amount of hired guns.

(A note on the figures used: wherever possible I have double-sourced numbers and figures used. All Wikipedia links have been double-checked also. Feel free to click around my (messy) Google Docs spreadsheet to double-check the figures. Thanks David).

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Show Comments ( )

  • Kate O’Driscoll

    This is so interesting. The amount of Afghan fatalities is really shocking. Also the fact that our ‘allies’ Canada never get a mention and they’re the ones worst hit! Says more in a few simple diagrams than all the news items I’ve watched over the months.

  • Alexander

    That’s a totally insane amount of contractors. I had no idea that they were more than just at fraction of the total amount.. I wonder how much actual combat they’re engaged in as a lot of them are probably only working as security guards, security etc.

  • Alexander

    Even if the british were the ones with the most casualties it wouldn’t be fair to hammer them. Big countries like France and Germany are keeping their troops out of the dangerous regions of Afghanistan, while leaving the regions to the United Kingdom, Canada, the Netherlands, Denmark and the United States.

    If we look at the statistics, all 5 of these countries have the most casualties as % of troops employed.

    It’s a shame that France and Germany does not want to cooperate when it gets tough.

    • Michel

      Get your facts right. Besides the fact that the French troops in Afghanistan are 4000 and not 3300 as indicated here, they are engaged in the volatile Eastern sector of Surobi-Kapisa, controlling the Khyber Pass, one of the major Taliban infiltration routes from Pakistan. The incidents in this region are daily specially in the Kapisa region and the French on the ground have the same ROE than the US. The French have mostly pacified the Surobi area and there are currently two-three major attack operations a month in the Kapisa one. I won’t answer for the Germans, but initially they were put in a much quieter area in the North (which isn’t anymore) and anyway as a decision of the US order of battle. Your comment, in its blatant ignorance, is typical from people who like to bash others. Do a minimum of reading before spewing idiocies which are insults to the ones who died there.

  • Ken

    I’m not trying to be an ass and use the internet as my personal argue-box, but I do have a question. Do you have a source for your estimate of Taliban manpower (“10,000″)? It doesn’t seem to be in the spreadsheet.

  • david


    Yep. Source on Taliban figures.

    NYT: David Rohde: “Foreign Fighters of Harsher Bent Bolster Taliban”

    Sorry it’s not in the spreadsheet. I’ve put it there now.

  • moomin

    I’m sure this makes the families of the dead soldiers feel much better

  • Jessica

    Thanks for this! Keeps everything in perspective, not blown out of proportion.

  • yon

    1-3% of risk of death for every soldier is very high…

  • scuz

    Hey you should do the same for the vietnam war, see what percentage of losses they got to before they pulled out? apparently 20% is unacceptable strategically in any situation.

  • James John Malcolm

    “The worst year is actually 2006.”

    That might be because in 2009 we have different types of troops there? (More non-combat personnel?)

    Still, curious to see being in the Canadian army is so dangerous…

  • David Heigham

    Surely the worst year for British troops in Afghanistan was 1842. There was one survivor from that army.

  • Tom Chatfield

    The figures only look lower for 2009 because the year hasn’t ended yet.

    At the time of writing this comment, there were 67 recorded UK casualties: already taking the percentage up to 0.8% of deployment.

    Factor in how far through the year we are – day 231 out of 365 today, giving a multiplier of around 1.6 to bring 2009 figures in line with other completed years – and we arrive at almost 1.3% for the UK if this year continues as it has done thus far.

    You do write “though obviously 2009 is not over,” but it should be easy enough to adjust for how much of it has elapsed.

  • bobroxemall

    wow …eye oppener but ive had my eyes open already …wow

  • McElroy

    This website is freaking amazing.

    Very curious to why the Canadians (I am one) are taking such a devastating beating. I realize this site isn’t the medium for explanations as much as discoveries and representations but definitely worth checking out.

    If anybody has any info email me at m.flavelle (at) gmail (dot) com

  • John Kantor

    The only thing that is relevant is that the Taleban know that murdering soldiers and civilians working in Iraq and it will work in Afghanistan too. There would be no support for the Taliban if anyone seriously thought that the coalition would stay and finish the job. The real enemy isn’t the Taliban, it’s the sick hypocrisy of the “anti-war” movements, the ngo’s, and the news media that makes them possible. The real enemies are among us.

  • Andy

    Very interesting graphics.

    How many civilians are getting killed?

    • david

      good question. Can you dig up any data?

  • James Growe

    I chime in with one of the last comments. I would REALLY like to see how small these dots look when next to the dot corresponding to the number of innocent civilians killed! If you could do this, please update!!!!


  • Brendan

    As far as the Canadian media tells it, we (Canadians) are in the most dangerous province. Hence the high proportion of casualties. Although I know there are some other very difficult palces, so I don’t totally trust the ‘most’ part of that. It’s a risky mission, however.
    Thanks for that. Great thing to visualize, really helps put it in perspective.

  • louise

    I think if you did this visualisation again now, the story would be different considering over 200 have now died this year. Unfortunately your prediction for 2009 didnt materialise :(

  • Hyster

    “The only thing that is relevant is that the Taleban know that murdering soldiers and civilians working in Iraq and it will work in Afghanistan too. There would be no support for the Taliban if anyone seriously thought that the coalition would stay and finish the job. The real enemy isn’t the Taliban, it’s the sick hypocrisy of the “anti-war” movements, the ngo’s, and the news media that makes them possible. The real enemies are among us.”

    No,. the real enemy is the ignorant belief that history began the day you were born. The Taliban are monsters of our own making – just fine when they fight along with the other mujahadeen against the Soviets; very inconvenient when they stand in the way of “American interests”. Pull your head out Mr. Kantor.

  • Wiki

    Although no-one’s counting, various reports have said Afghan civilian deaths are at 12,460 – 32,057 since 2001 – with between 60% and 89% killed by/due to the US-led forces, the rest through ‘insurgent actions’.

    Even 32K is only 11 civilians per day of war, 12k is 4 deaths per day. Both seem ridiculously low, but why not add to your graph anyway.

  • christmas shopping

    Really an amazing post. One i thing i want to point out is Taleban know that murdering soldiers and civilians working in Iraq and it will work in Afghanistan also.

  • Má»™t Trăm Độ – Kết nối Cá»™ng đồng blog Việt

    Could you compile a civilian casualty map over the year? I guess it will be huge.

  • AusArmy

    If you can you should read the book ‘Taliban’ by James Ferguson. It is a real eye opener to the way the Taliban works and how they were created.