Troop depression on rise in Afghanistan
By PAULINE JELINEK, Associated Press Writer
Thu Mar 6, 6:55 AM ET
WASHINGTON - U.S. troop morale improved in Iraq last year, but soldiers fighting in Afghanistan suffered more depression as violence there worsened, an Army mental health report says.
And in a recurring theme for a force strained by its seventh year at war, the annual battlefield study found once again that soldiers on their third and fourth tours of duty had sharply greater rates of mental health problems than those on their first or second deployments, according to several officials familiar with the report.
The report was drawn from the work of a team of mental health experts who traveled to the wars last fall and surveyed more than 2,200 soldiers in Iraq and nearly 900 in Afghanistan. In the fifth such effort, the team also gathered information from more than 400 medical professionals, chaplains, psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health workers serving with the troops.
It was unclear how the new data might relate to a recent report showing that as many as 121 Army soldiers committed suicide in 2007, an increase of about 20 percent over the year before. The preliminary figures released in January said that there were 89 confirmed suicides last year and 32 deaths that were suspected suicides and still under investigation.
Soldiers in Afghanistan had rates of mental health problems similar to those in Iraq in 2007 with the exception of depression, officials said the new study showed. The percentage reporting depression in Afghanistan was higher than that in Iraq, and mental health problems in general were higher than they had previously been in Afghanistan.
Though U.S. troops suffered their highest level of casualties in both campaigns last year, that came as violence was decreasing in the five-year-old Iraq conflict and increasing in Afghanistan, now in its seventh year.
Troops' mental health problems are linked directly to the amount of exposure they have to combat, and officials said that last year the level of violence was more pronounced in some places of Afghanistan than it was in Iraq. Some 83 percent of soldiers in Afghanistan reported being exposed to mortar fire and similar action as fighting heated up against Taliban and al-Qaida fighters, compared with 72 percent in Iraq, according to the study.
Okay, so, we're there and we're not pulling out any time soon. I get it. But what the fuck are we trying to do and why isn't it working? Why are we seeing increased violence in Afghanistan?
Our boys are in their third and fourth tours in lots of cases. Is our goal to simply perpetually occupy these countries, or are we working toward a goal?