Afghanistan is worse than you think

It's common knowledge by now that the security situation in the country has been deteriorating, but the scale of the problem is staggering.

Published March 10, 2009 5:00PM (EDT)

WASHINGTON -- We all knew that the situation in Afghanistan has been rapidly becoming worse. That was made clear last month, when President Obama ordered another 17,000 troops there in an attempt to keep a lid on violence. But fewer people know just how steep the downward spiral has been.

"The security situation in Afghanistan has been deteriorating for several years and is now a serious problem," Senate Armed Services Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said at a Tuesday hearing on worldwide security threats that featured, among other things, the first testimony before that panel by Dennis Blair, Obama’s director of national intelligence.

"It is a bad trend," Blair agreed.

Deteriorating? A bad trend?

Attacks by the Taliban have increased every year since 2002. "Enemy-initiated violence" grew by 50 percent from 2007 to 2008, according to data presented by Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. He cited a 21 percent increase in suicide bombings and a 33 percent increase in small arms attacks.

Oh, and improvised explosive device attacks? You know, those roadside bombs that have killed so many troops in Iraq? Those are up also -- by 106 percent.

By Mark Benjamin

Mark Benjamin is a national correspondent for Salon based in Washington, D.C. Read his other articles here.

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