Attrition: Killing and Counting Canadians

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January 7, 2008: Canadian media are reporting that Canadian troops are suffering higher casualty rates than other NATO contingents in Afghanistan.In 2006, 32 Canadian soldiers died in Afghanistan, and last year, 27 died. That translates to a 1.6 percent KIA (killed in action) in 2006 and 1.3 percent in 2007. Comparisons to U.S. casualty rates in Afghanistan (less than half the rate of the Canadians) are misleading, because many of the U.S. troops are in support roles, and provide support for NATO as well as U.S. troops. The U.S. KIA rate in Iraq last year was .5 percent, but that included lots of support troops.The British KIA rate in Afghanistan is similar to the American, although the British also depend on the American support troops.

The last major war Canada fought in was Korea (1951-3). There, the overall Canadian KIA rate was two percent. In World War II, large numbers of Canadian troops did not enter combat until 1944 (the invasion of France), and their KIA rate for that year was 3.4 percent. Before 1944, the rate was much lower (.4 to 1.1 percent) because involvement was largely restricted to naval, air force and commando operations.

In Afghanistan, the Canadians are aggressively dealing with a sector that is full of Taliban fighters and drug gangs. As any military historian will point out, casualty rates depend on many factors, and how "hot" your area of operations is heads the list. Since World War I, Canadians have earned a reputation for being able to handle the worst situations, better than most other troops. Thus Canadian troops were in the thick of it during World War I, at Normandy and in Korea. And, it appears, in Afghanistan as well.

 


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