‘Afghan Conflict May Turn Deadlier Than Syria’s’

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KABUL — The Afghan conflict could overtake Syria as the deadliest conflict in the world this year, analysts say, as vio­lence surges 17 years after the US-led invasion.

The grim assessment con­trasts sharply with the consis­tently upbeat public view of the conflict from Nato’s Resolute Sup­port mission in Kabul, and under­scores the growing sense of hope­lessness in the war-torn country.

It suggests that US President Donald Trump’s much-vaunted strategy for Afghanistan is, like those of his predecessors, failing to move the needle on the battle­field, observers said, as a gen­eration of Americans born after 9/11 become old enough to enlist.

“The soaring casualties in Afghanistan and the potential endgame in sight in Syria… could leave Afghanistan as the world’s deadliest conflict,” said Johnny Walsh, an Afghanistan expert at the United States In­stitute of Peace.

“Most years have become the new ‘most violent year’. This is continually getting worse.”

The Syrian conflict — which began a decade after Afghanistan’s — has claimed the lives of more than 15,000 people so far this year, accord­ing to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Graeme Smith, a consul­tant for the International Crisis Group, said some indications “suggest the Afghan war is on track to inflict more than 20,000 battle deaths in 2018” — includ­ing civilians and combatants.

“That could exceed the toll of any other conflict, possibly even the war in Syria,” he add­ed. It would be a record high for Afghanistan, according to the respected Uppsala Conflict Data Programme (UCDP) in Sweden, which put the total number of deaths on all sides of the conflict at 19,694 in 2017.

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