Coronavirus Has Killed More in the U.S. Than the War in Afghanistan, Death Toll Soon to Pass 9/11

The number of people killed by the novel coronavirus in the United States has exceeded U.S. casualties incurred throughout the conflict in Afghanistan, the longest war in U.S. history.

COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. reached 2,479 on Sunday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, surpassing the 2,445 casualties recorded among Pentagon personnel and civilians as a result of the U.S.-led military intervention in Afghanistan and related missions between October 7, 2001 and March 23 of this year. As President Donald Trump battles what has become the world’s largest known coronavirus outbreak at home, his administration has also sought to ensure a historic peace process in Afghanistan, where warring sides have struggled to conduct talks amid ongoing unrest and a pandemic.

The U.S.-backed, Kabul-based government and the insurgent Taliban movement were set to hold their first intra-Afghan dialogue Saturday, but the Taliban backed out, arguing the government team “violates our principled policy and the agreement concluded with America” on February 29.

“In order to reach true and lasting peace, the aforementioned team must be agreed upon by all effective Afghan sides so that it can represent all sides however majority of other sides have rejected the current announced team,” Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said Saturday.

Both the U.S. and the Taliban have urged Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s administration to quickly release up to 5,000 prisoners in government custody, especially due to coronavirus concerns. As of Sunday, Afghanistan has reported 145 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including three deaths and three recoveries, while the U.S. has registered more than 140,000 cases of the new coronavirus illness.

Soldiers from the 1-118th Field Artillery Regiment of the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team fire an M777 Howitzer during a fire mission in southern Afghanistan, June 10th, 2019.
Sergeant Jordan Trent/48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team/U.S. Army

Describing the rapid coronavirus spread in the U.S., Trump told a press briefing Sunday that the “peak in death rate is likely to hit in two weeks.” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said U.S. COVID-19 fatalities could reach between 100,000 and 200,000 based on current rates, with “millions” of infections. Trump said up to 2.2 million may die without government intervention and the public’s practice of social distancing.