More people were killed in prohibition-related violence in Mexico last year than died in the war in Afghanistan, according to year-end reports from both countries. In Afghanistan, more than 140,000 US and NATO are in the ninth year of a guerrilla war with thousands of Taliban fighters flush with profits from the opium trade, while in Mexico, more than 50,000 federal troops are engaged in the fourth year of a fight with the so-called cartels, who are also at war with each other.
In Afghanistan, interior ministry spokesman Zemari Bashary told reporters January 1 that more than 10,000 people, about one-fifth of them civilians, died in the fighting last year. He put the number of civilians, police, and insurgents killed at 8,560, while an additional 810 Afghan soldiers died. According to the independent web site icasualties.org, another 711 Western troops were killed in Afghanistan last year. That figure includes 499 US troops, 103 British troops, and 109 soldiers from other NATO countries.
The total dead from the Afghan war last year is thus 10,081, including 2,043 civilians killed either in Taliban attacks or in military operations targeting the insurgents. Nearly 1,300 Afghan police were killed battling the Taliban, while 5,225 insurgents were reported killed.
Although the conflict in Afghanistan is a full-fledged guerrilla conflict replete with air power, heavy weapons, and numerous roadside bombs, it has still been less deadly than the Mexican drug war. Definitive numbers are hard to come by, but Agence France-Presse put the year's death toll at more than 15,000 and CNN estimated 13,000. In mid-December, the Mexican attorney general's office reported that 12,456 people had been killed through the end of November. Given that rate of more than 1,000 killed a month in 2010, a year end figure of more than 13,000 seems entirely reasonable.
In the case of Afghanistan, it has taken a full-blown guerrilla war pitting the world's most powerful military and its allies against a tenacious homegrown insurgency to ratchet the annual death toll up over 10,000. In Mexico, all it has taken is drug prohibition and the all-too-foreseeable emergence of organized crime forces feeding off it.
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