Casualties in Afghanistan

The other day I posted about the relatively high proportion of Danes among casualties in the Iraq war, and also as readers of Gates of Vienna. At the time I wasn’t able to find a table listing Coalition casualties in Afghanistan by country, but several readers have since located the data and sent it to me.

Paul of the Celestial Junk Blog sent me the figures along with an informative account of Canada’s part in the fighting in Afghanistan:

I just read your post on Danish casualties in Afghanistan. It’s interesting because in Canada it’s the belief that Canadians have been suffering the highest rate of casualties. So, I did some checking. It turns out that Canadians are now suffering the second-highest rate of casualties per population of country. It’s also interesting that Canadian and Danish troops fight close to one another in Helmand.

Here are the casualty stats you were looking for in Afghanistan:

Country   Casualties
American   418
British   93
Canadian   81
German   29
Spanish   23
Danish   15
Dutch   14
French   12
Italian   12
Romanian   6
Australian   4
Norwegian   3
Polish   3
Estonian   2
Portuguese   2
Swedish   2
Czech   2
Finnish   1
South Korean   1

The ratios for Denmark and Canada are:

Canadian population   33,225,000   (1 in 410,185)
Denmark   5,468,120   (1 in 390,580)

Here’s another interesting stat, though. As a ratio of troops deployed, nobody even comes close to Canada for deaths. We’ve taken a beating largely due to the fact that we’ve taken on some of the toughest terrain and we were the first in Helmand to use aggressive offensive actions. While others patrolled from a distance or sat in FOBs, Canadians dug out the Taliban.

Here’s some spectacular video of our 2006 campaign, where we wrestled the land from the barbarians.


I took Paul’s figures and built a table of extended data and some graphs, just as I did with the data from Iraq. The country/population database I’m using is a little out of date (2004), but the relative proportions between Western countries should be pretty much the same as they are now:
– – – – – – – –

Country   Total   Prop
USA   418   418
UK   93   455
Canada   81   730
Germany   29   104
Spain   23   169
Denmark   15   817
Netherlands   14   252
France   12   59
Italy   12   61
Romania   6   79
Australia   4   59
Norway   3   193
Poland   3   23
Czech Republic   2   58
Estonia   2   444
Portugal   2   56
Sweden   2   66
Finland   1   57
South Korea   1   6

Paul’s figure for Denmark was 15, as opposed to the 14 I listed the other day. I don’t know which one is right, but I left his figures as he sent them.

Here’s the way the raw casualties look on a graph:

Afghan Graph 1

And here’s the proportional version, weighted by population:

Afghan Graph 2

As you can see, Denmark has indeed suffered the heaviest losses, with Canada a close second. Next come the UK and Estonia, with the United States in fifth place. Unlike the conflict in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan is placing a heavier burden on our allies than it is on us.

But some allies take more casualties than others, and Denmark and Canada are seeing the worst of it.

24 thoughts on “Casualties in Afghanistan

  1. As a Canadian, I take comfort in the fact that the Taliban is being kept in check and that there are about double the number of Afghan kids in school now as there were When the Taliban were in control and half of them are girls whereas before, none of them were.

    While I know that most of you know this it is one of the main reasons that I support this war. While literacy, education and prosperity are not panaceas for preventing terrorism, and many terrorists are educated and prosperous, they tend to come from poor and poorly educated societies and opening people’s views to new ideas is a catalyst for transformation.

    Afghanistan is no utopia and Islam still has far too much influence over its laws and society but things are changing and as long as the Taliban are not in charge they are not able to direct the future of the nation.

  2. Until the recent losses, the majority had died due to various accidents. Meaning the Taleban has, until it started suicide bombing us (that’s mean) been woefully ineffective at striking back.

    On the other side of the equation, they have found that most encounters with us Danes (and Canadians, too), left their ranks radically thinner. They have trouble with that.

  3. There is simply too much freeloading by too many nations on NATO. The numbers only reinforce my sentiment that the US and Canada should get out of NATO. It has been a huge strategic mistake for the US to enable European governments to avoid ‘guns vs butter’ dilemma all these years.

    (But kudos to the Danes for being an exception to the rule, but the Danish effort does not excuse the other freeloaders.)

  4. It’s a shame that our own American media doesn’t report on the sacrifices of other nations in Afghanistan, but to do so would go against one of the Democrats top talking points “The Unilateral Bush War.” Thanks for the post.

  5. Doesn’t it just show the evil of Finland when they have only lost one of their soldiers in battle, compared to the rest of these brave nations. They are riding on the backs of our glory! stone them to death!

  6. “Afghanistan is no utopia and Islam still has far too much influence over its laws and society but things are changing.”

    Posted by Snake Oil Baron

    I agree with much of this, which explains why I support the mission as well (one of many reasons I’ve taken a hard right turn against Taliban Jack’s NDP over the last few years – a party I doubt I’d agree with any longer even about the weather), but I’m pessimistic about the pace of change, and even more about its ultimate outcome.

    I doubt that that country is going to be able to transcend its own indigenous Islamist influence without a lot of outside “help” and pressure, and so far the West has not brought this to bear. We’re still pussyfooting around about this. The establishment of Sharia law in its constitution is the evidence, and so far the West is scandalously silent about that. That puts us, just like the U.S. in Iraq at the moment, essentially in the position of propping up an Islamist Sharia regime in the heartland of the terrorist menace that so loves to “reach out and touch someone”.

    So I say it’s time to ratchet things up over there. NATO should establish secured and well resourced sanctuary areas for victims of Sharia law – women, non-Muslims, gays or anyone else who needs protection and enforce the 1948 UN Declaration of Human Rights there against Karzai and anyone else in the way. Give people like Abdul Rahman (if he wants to return to Afghanistan – assuming he isn’t giving the Italians any problems, he should be entirely free to decide this, of course, but I think such an alternative should be offered to anyone else feeling a need to leave Afghanistan because of threats to life and limb from their countrymen) a chance to build an alternative society there based on enlightened values. I’d wager that you’d have a lot of takers. This might quicken the pace of change, and improve its long-range prospect.

  7. i think the danes should come home. even before the loss of lives it should have been well known, that danes are fighting in one of the hardest places in afganistan. fighting to honor our allies.
    but as one american writer told, our allies dont even know that we are there, so whats the point.

    all that is left is gloryfying cassulties as if it was a good thing to lose soldiers.

    even if denmark had not lost soldiers we would still be fighting at one of the hardest places.

    but here, only death is a good thing.


  8. What can I say, Canadians rock. It is no wonder the Danes and Canadians fight in close proximity – being brethren and all, watching each others’ backs.

  9. sort – all allies, other than the Americans, know the Danes are there. The point really has little to do with people knowing who is there or not, but that they know they are there. People don’t save a child from a burning building because of the attention they will receive, they do it for the intrinsic fulfillment. Mind you, a little support goes a long way for the morale of the troops. I’m proud of the whole lot of them – all brave men and women.

  10. sort – Death is never a good thing, but honouring the dead is – now I see why you think the point is that people know the Danes are there.

  11. joanne

    this whole post is about who is doing the work and who is not.

    its not about honoring the dead dead.

    its about saying that those who didnt die enough, didnt pull their load.

    you know it i know it and everyone else know it.

    the danes are not there to save afganistan. they are there to respect the americans.

    if americans dont even know that they are they and only want to gloryfy death, then its time to go home.

  12. Sort, you’re sort of right, but only partly… The post is indeed about who is doing the dirty work and who is freeloading. And unfortunately the death statistics is one such indicator of who is putting their young and brave soldiers on the line and who is there only for show.

    But you’re dead wrong about the reasons why the Danes are in Afghanistan, they are there to make a difference, both to the Afghani people as well as securing the West against a re-talibanized Afghanistan that could pose a significant terror threat to the West. They are also there because Denmark wants to honor the original NATO musketeer oath. This is the rationale behind the broad support for the Afghanistan mission from politicians and Danish people as well.

    You might not agree with this, I know I don’t fully agree, but such is the situation. Some politicians might want to use this to strengthen the bonds between the USA and Denmark, but that is not the main reason we’re there and not the reason that most Danes continue to support the mission, despite the heavy losses we have taken recently.

    And lastly, nobody here is glorifying death, none of us wants our soldiers to die, but that is what happens when some of the NATO members don’t pull their weight and let too few do the dirty work. Shame on them!

  13. Plenty of Americans know the Danes and Canadians and Brits are fighting in Afghanistan.

    The politicized media don’t report on it any more than they report on improvements in Iraq or the increasing ability of the Iraqi army.

    That said, it’s a mistake to say that it is public awareness that matters. If Denmark in is Afghanistan to honor the US request of NATO, then be assured that those who follow such matters are quite aware of Danish contributions and sacrifices.

    There are many like me who are willing to continue to support NATO for this reason.

  14. zonka you are deing silly when you say that i am dead wrong.

    you know that denmark has no interest in afganistan. and still you claim that i am dead wrong in saying that we are there for the americans.

    would we have gone alone , and other stupid questions i could ask. you know its not true. denmark would never have sent troops to afganistan if it wasnt for the americans.

    pls, zonka, dont be another moron, i know that you are not. we went becouse the americans ask us to. period. all other reasons are afterthought.


    true, the americans that matter, might know what is going on. i hope so.
    but for me its not enough, to have people dieing for.

    i want puplich honor for our soldiers, not secret reconotion from some usa elite. and not for the death, but for the work they do.

    but its not going to happen so i want them to come home.

  15. Here’s some more Canuck vid … in this case, the Canucks got ambushed. So, they simply pushed back:

    Unlike the Americans, Canadians, and a few others, most Afghan NATO forces won’t mix it up. They patrol from a distance, but they won’t root out Taliban nests. That’s left up to Americans most of the time, since they have the most capability … and others like Canada.

    The vast majority of NATO countries are so terrified of casualties they won’t release their troops to hit back. To be fair though, I’m not sure their domestic populations would tolerate their soldiers doing what we see on these videos or the higher casualties that result from fighting hard.

  16. As far as the Spanish figures are concerned, I have tosay that they have mostly died in an accident, not fighting.

    I think that they do not participate in combat operations, but only “recponstructions work”. We have now an NGO army. A shame.

  17. Sort,

    No I’m quite serious, I think you’re mixing up the reasons for Danish forces to be in Afghanistan with the reasons for them going to Iraq. Unfortunately you’re not alone in making that mistake. The reasons for Danish forces being in those two places are quite different.

    The Danish forces went to Afghanistan as part of the musketeer oath in NATO, first under US Command in “Operation Enduring Freedom” and later under NATO command, when NATO was (finally?) ready to take command.

    And yes the US did ask, but that wasn’t the main reason, the main reason was that a NATO allied had been attacked (9/11-2001), and Denmark heeded the call, like we would have expected the other NATO allies to have heeded the call if we had been under attack. And in hindsight, thank God Denmark was never attacked relying on unreliable NATO partners.

    Now if you were talking about the Iraq war, I would be inclined to agree with you that we participated because the US asked us to.

  18. And let’s not forget that the United Nations requested and sanctioned the NATO role as well. Denmark is in Afghanistan as part of it’s NATO and UN committment.

  19. Baron

    A differnt way to look at your question is the comparitive casualty rate of the forces involved.

    Per capita causlties of the force engaged in combat are pretty much a constant for the type of operation. Despite the intuitive idea that the rate should be going up it seems if anything to be going down.

    The link is a large PDF file. The relevant tables are at the bottom half. Read the cavets.

    It is the US Army Field Maunal for estimating causlties so that their will be enough medical units and supplies to take care of the causlties.

    If a contributing country is getting higher per capitia casualty rates they are taking moure serious action.

  20. Hank —

    That’s definitely another interesting take on the figures.

    My point was to get an idea of how it feels on the “home front”, which makes population weighting more relevant.

  21. Zonka

    sorry about being rude.

    yes a nato allied was attacked, but that nato allied was the usa, so its just wordplay when you say that we didnt go for the usa but for nato.

    we didnt have to go to one of the hardest places, we could have played it low, like others do, and still be allright with nato. at least that is what others are doing.

    we are bringing education to afganistan now. with some luck they will be just just the palistinians in a few years. and also we got the drugs flowing again, and i surpose that was the real purpose all allong.

    our soldiers die for something they dont even comprehend. well they die to serve their country, and i salute them for it.but why really.

    i am not trying to say that we shouldent go when the usa or any other nato allied call on us. i think its good that we went.

    but enough now. it has become pointless. afganistan will never be a democracy. and i dont like to see our soldiers die just to protect a pipeline and the flow of opium.

  22. ps

    i know we are not talking about iraq.

    and also. we could make a difference there if we chose to enforce a ban on islam.

    but its not going to happen, so our pressense is in vain.

    our own country is becoming islamic while we fight far away.

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