Inside the War in Afghanistan

Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin rank among the Bottom 10 states in per capita fatalities; non-hostile deaths account for more than 25 percent of U.S. death toll

President Barack Obama’s announcement at West Point Tuesday evening that another 30,000 troops will be deployed in the war against the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan comes at what many military (and political) analysts believe is a critical tipping point in the war.

Although U.S. fatalities in November (17) were the lowest amount since May of this year, October had been the bloodiest month to date of the 8+ year-old war, with 60 U.S. troops perishing in what has become one of the longest military conflicts in U.S. history.

Overall, 929 U.S. forces have died in the war, with the highest per capita death toll endured by military personnel hailing from the South (3.21 per 1 million residents), followed by the West (3.01), Midwest (2.82), and Northeast (2.73) according to a Smart Politics analysis of data provided by iCasualties.

Minnesota – and its neighboring states of Iowa and Wisconsin – all rank among the bottom 10 states in terms of per capita fatalities in the war. Minnesota is ranked #43 (2.11 per 1 million residents) with Wisconsin at #42 (2.13) and Iowa at #44 (2.00).

Overall, 11 Minnesotans have died in the Afghan conflict, with 12 from Wisconsin and 6 from Iowa. Military personnel from Rhode Island have the lowest per capita death rate (0.95 per million).

U.S. Military Fatalities in Afghanistan by State, 2001-2009

Rank
State
Deaths
Per Capita
1
Maine
12
9.12
2
North Dakota
4
6.24
3
West Virginia
11
6.06
4
Wyoming
3
5.63
5
Nevada
14
5.38
6
New Hampshire
7
5.32
7
Montana
5
5.17
8
Oklahoma
18
4.94
9
Kansas
13
4.64
10
Washington
29
4.43
11
Alaska
3
4.37
12
Missouri
25
4.23
13
Louisiana
18
4.08
14
Massachusetts
26
4.00
15
Oregon
15
3.96
16
South Carolina
17
3.79
17
Maryland
21
3.73
18
New Mexico
7
3.53
19
North Carolina
32
3.47
20
Nebraska
6
3.36
21
Virginia
26
3.35
22
Illinois
43
3.33
23
Utah
9
3.29
24
Florida
59
3.22
24
Alabama
15
3.22
26
Georgia
30
3.10
27
Arizona
20
3.08
28
Kentucky
13
3.05
29
Indiana
19
2.98
30
Pennsylvania
36
2.89
31
Mississippi
8
2.72
32
Texas
65
2.67
33
Tennessee
16
2.57
34
New York
49
2.51
35
South Dakota
2
2.49
36
California
91
2.48
37
Arkansas
7
2.45
38
Hawaii
3
2.33
39
Colorado
11
2.23
40
Michigan
22
2.20
41
Ohio
25
2.18
42
Wisconsin
12
2.13
43
Minnesota
11
2.11
44
Iowa
6
2.00
45
Idaho
3
1.97
46
Vermont
1
1.61
47
New Jersey
13
1.50
48
Connecticut
5
1.43
49
Delaware
1
1.15
50
Rhode Island
1
0.95
Other
21
Total
929

Source: iCasualties.org data compiled by Smart Politics with 2008 U.S. Census Bureau population estimates.

As is normally the case in war, the deaths of U.S. Military personnel have not been evenly distributed across the Armed Services.

The U.S. Army has suffered more than four times the number of fatalities than any other branch of the U.S. military.

At 560 deaths, the Army has endured 60.3 percent of all American military fatalities in the war. The U.S. Marine Corps has seen 126 of its personnel die in the war (13.6 percent), the U.S. Navy has lost 51 personnel (5.5 percent) and 42 members of the U.S. Air Force have perished (4.5 percent).

The use of the National Guard (for multiple tours) has been one of the more controversial aspects of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Overall, 106 members of the U.S. Army (97) and U.S. Air (9) National Guards have died in the Afghan war.

An additional 39 Reservists in the U.S. Army, U.S. Marines, and U.S.Navy have also died.

Deaths in War in Afghanistan by Military Branch, 2001-2009

Branch
Deaths
Percent
U.S. Army
560
60.3
U.S. Marines
126
13.6
U.S. Army National Guard
97
10.4
U.S. Navy
51
5.5
U.S. Air Force
42
4.5
U.S. Army Reserve
31
3.3
U.S. Air National Guard
9
1.0
U.S. Marine Reserve
6
0.6
CIA
4
0.4
U.S. Navy Reserve
2
0.2
N/A
1
0.1
Total
929
100.0

Source: iCasualties.org data compiled by Smart Politics.

While fighting has been fierce during the last year of the war (U.S. fatalities will likely be twice as high in 2009 by year’s end than in any other year of the war to date), a large number of deaths have occurred in non-hostile situations.

More than one-quarter of the 929 U.S. military fatalities in Afghanistan (262, or 28.2 percent) have been due to non-hostile causes.

The majority of non-hostile related deaths have come from crashes of helicopters (81, 30.9 percent), ground vehicles (36, 13.7 percent) and aircraft (21, 8.0 percent) in non-combat situations.

Two members of the U.S. military have committed suicide while in Afghanistan.

Cause of U.S. Military Deaths in Afghanistan (Non-Hostile), 2001-2009

Cause
Number
Percent
Helicopter crash
81
30.9
Vehicle crash
36
13.7
Aircraft crash
21
8.0
Non-combat wounds
10
3.8
Illness
9
3.4
Ordnance explosion
8
3.1
Drowning
5
1.9
Weapon discharge
4
1.5
Traffic accident
2
0.8
Suicide
2
0.8
Self-inflicted gunshot
2
0.8
Natural causes
2
0.8
Land mine
1
0.4
Unspecified / other
79
30.4
Total
262
100.0

Source: iCasualties.org data compiled by Smart Politics.

The remaining 667 U.S. fatalities (71.8 percent) have been in hostile combat situations, with nearly half of these being caused by improvised explosive devices (310, 46.5 percent).

A very low percentage of deaths have been caused by suicide bombers (15, 2.2 percent) with deaths by hostile fire (132, 19.8 percent) and small arms fire (117, 17.5 percent) much more prevalent.

Cause of U.S. Military Deaths in Afghanistan (Hostile), 2001-2009

Cause
Number
Percent
Improvised Explosive Device (IED)
310
46.5
Hostile fire (general)
132
19.8
Small arms fire
117
17.5
Helicopter / plane crash
34
5.1
Rocket-propelled grenade (RPG)
18
2.7
Suicide bomber
15
2.2
Land mine
11
1.6
Rocket fire
6
0.9
Friendly fire (hostile situation)
5
0.7
Indirect fire
5
0.7
Bomb
4
0.6
Mortar attack
3
0.4
Grenade attack
1
0.1
Other
6
0.9
Total
667
100.0

Source: iCasualties.org data compiled by Smart Politics.

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1 Comment on "Inside the War in Afghanistan"

  1. We need to leave Afghanistan ASAP not wait till 2014 and start spending those money on infrastructure building (high-speed trains, solar farms, algae farms, wind farms) and invest on fusions research to commercialize fusions power plants.

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