The Costs of War to United States Allies Since 9/11 by Jason W. Davidson, Brown University, May 12, 2021:
While the U.S. had the largest total number of fatalities, the allies were not mere bystanders, as some believe. Some U.S. military service members, for instance, joked that ISAF stood for “I Saw Americans Fight” because of all the caveats and limits on when and how some allies could engage the enemy. Yet hundreds of allied troops died. The United Kingdom lost 455 service members, Canada lost 158, and
France, Germany, and Italy each lost dozens.
When we look at numbers of fatalities relative to the size of each country’s deployment, Canadian soldiers suffered the highest risk of dying, with their 158 fatalities accounting for 5.4% of Canada’s peak deployment in 2011. The United Kingdom’s 455 fatalities amounted to 4.7% of its peak deployment in 2011. In comparison, the U.S. incurred 2,316 fatalities, which was 2.3% of its peak deployment in 2011. These numbers demonstrate that British and Canadian troops were not hiding from the fight—they put their lives at risk at twice the rate of American troops, when seen as a percentage of peak deployment.
One obvious explanation lies in the placement of UK forces in the most dangerous region of Afghanistan – Helmand – but other factors have been suggested:
British soldiers were 12% more likely to have been killed than their American counterparts during the “war on terror” in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a study of casualty figures. The research – intended as a lessons learned exercise – also concludes that UK forces were 26% more likely to have been killed by improvised explosives, validating longstanding complaints about the poorly armoured Snatch Land Rover. Iain Overton, the editor of the study, said that while it was hard to be “absolutely concrete” on why British troops were more likely to have died, “repeated scandals over poor equipment” were likely to have had an impact.
The MoD had failed to upgrade essential elements of the army’s core kit despite pledging billions of pounds to pay for the Royal Navy’s two new aircraft carriers and Typhoon jets for the Royal Air Force. “You have a position where either you don’t have the right equipment or you have the equipment but you aren’t trained properly.
What then of Scottish regiments?
We now know that the long-dominant view that Scotland did not suffer more army deaths per head than other parts of the UK in World War 1, is a myth:
In Patrick Watt’s Manpower, Myth and Memory: Analysing Scotland’s Military Contribution to the Great War in the Journal of Scottish Historical Studies, on 24th May 2019 based on extensive research, a different fact emerges:
Overall, 91,800 out of the 702,410 fatalities sustained by the British Army were born in Scotland. This is a 13.07 per cent share of the British total, some 2.6 per cent higher than Scotland’s share of the British population. Even using the highest estimate of British army casualties supplied by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (759,062 soldiers) gives a 12.09 per cent share of the British total, compared to 10.47 per cent of the British population. The combined total of war dead for all three services – 102,500
soldiers, sailors and airmen – means that 13.78 per cent of the ‘official’ British total from 1921, or 12.32 per cent of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission total were born in Scotland. Therefore, it can be said with certainty that men born in Scotland did suffer disproportionately more deaths during the war than the other nations of the United Kingdom.
But in Afghanistan, 100 years later?
Things look different. I can find no data to support any suggestion that Scots were more likely to die.