Report: Troop shortages in Afghanistan linked to Taliban comeback.

According to statistics provided in a new report from the United States Institute of Peace, the use of air power in Afghanistan by U.S. and NATO allies has increased from 5,000 pounds of munitions per month in 2005 to 168,000 pounds in December, 2007. The result is that “civilian casualties increased by 62 [percent] in 2008, compared to figures from the first six months of 2007.” The report says the increase in air power is a result of a shortage of troops and suggests that the resulting increase in casualties is “a key reason for the Taliban comeback”:

Stabilizing Afghanistan requires the support of the Afghan people. This presents a fundamental dilemma in that stability requires security, and security requires targeting insurgents, which, in turn invariably leads to civilian deaths. These civilian casualties have led to the erosion of civilian support for the counter-insurgency.

Troop levels in Afghanistan have been insufficient given the geographic and demographic scope of the challenge, resulting in increased reliance on air power as a substitute for ground forces.