Many of us who support victory in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (I deliberately try to avoid the term 'pro-war') have long complained that our governments and militaries are reluctant to publicise the numbers of enemy being killed.
Senior soldiers and politicians say they don't want to make the conflicts all about 'body counts', because that plays into the hands of extremists, and also detracts from the humanitarian and nation-building aspects of both campaigns.
It's a fair point, but the counter argument is that if we don't highlight the successes achieved by our troops, it leaves the way clear for the MSM and political opponents of the war to dominate the news with reports of setbacks suffered and mistakes made by allied forces, and other stories that undermine support for the war effort and provide encouragement to the enemy.
I'm a body count person myself. I think the positive effects of letting the folks back home know that we're winning outweigh the possible negative effects of radicalising a few more Afghans or Iraqis at the margins. But this story from the UK's Sunday Times illustrates the dilemma faced by allied forces:
British troops are to scale back attacks on the Taliban after killing 7,000 insurgents in two years of conflict, defence sources said last week.
British paratroopers have returned to southern Afghanistan in increased numbers this month. For the first time, members from every battalion of the regiment will be fighting together on one battlefront.
The paratroopers of 16 Air Assault Brigade killed at least 1,000 Taliban during their first deployment to Helmand province in 2006. Since then another 6,000 Taliban insurgents have been killed by British troops, the sources said.
The paratroopers’ commanders hope they can cut the deaths, which they fear are a boost for the Taliban when fighters recruited from the local population are killed, as the dead insurgent’s family then feels a debt of honour to take up arms against British soldiers.
7,000 enemy KIA, against 93 British deaths, has to be good news (although I wonder how many of those 7,000 were killed by US air support), and it seems counter-intuitive to hear military commanders say they want to kill less of the enemy. But I can see where they're coming from – they're the ones in the field who have to face the consequences of Afghan deaths boosting the militants – and I'll trust them to keep killing the bad guys when they need to be killed.
I'm just glad that there will be 7,000 less Taliban around for my brother to worry about when he deploys to Afghanistan with the British Army in September.