Re: Not an accurate description of the incident
"In the interests of a fair and balanced view of the battle do we know how many Taliban were killed?"
A body count is difficult if not impossible when your opponents "own" the territory, but even if you manage it it tells you little. That's because there's no way of telling the mangled bodies of "my first Kalashnikov" yokels from senior, hardened and experienced fighters who really know what they're up to. Throw into the mix that the West clearly has not got a clue about who it is fighting, how many there are (eg, see wildly fluctuating CIA estimates on IS numbers), and the flexible loyalties of the locals, and you get a feel for how enemy casualties don't give any useful numbers.
A more telling picture of the overall position has to be the simple fact that the West got shown the door in Iraq (after destabilising and crippling the country) and now it has to go back. US estimates suggest war in Iraq has thus far cost the US $2 trillion (other countries' contributions are noted, but are rounding errors on the US magnitude of cost). And still the West need to drop more bombs.
So for a fair and balanced view, who's winning? I'd say that the insurgents (probable budget less than $200m since 2003?) are doing well to goad the US into launching a further fusillade of expensive cruise missiles, to have seized half of Iraq, and a third of Syria.
But this latest battle isn't about winning, it is about symbolism and vanity. If IS wanted to win, they'd have been nice as pie to their hostages, given them a message for the West, and sent them home with a few (non-explosive) gifts. Nobody in the West cares if IS slaughter a few hundred locals. Had IS been nice to the Western hostages, would Bamaboy be raining down more death on the Middle East? Probably not. Instead, IS indulge themselves with some more primitive brutality against journalists, tourists (and I sadly suspect, soon amongst aid workers), and invite attack from the US, Uncle Tom Cobley and all. The vanity and symbolism for us in the West comes from televised pictures of cruise missile launches against IS, and infrared images of these missiles hitting unknowable buildings in Syria. Go Team West! Obama is a war president! Except that there will be further undesirable consequences from this latest bombings and supply of arms. Don't forget, at least one of the murdered hostages was sold by "moderate" rebel factions in Syria to IS, and a large chunk of IS' best weapons were supplied by the US to "moderate" rebels, or to the useless Iraqi army.
In 'Stan, we ended us spending a decade fighting people we'd trained, financed and armed because we thought they'd piss the Russians off. They most certainly did, but in the light of 9/11 and a decade of war in Afghanistan, was the cost to us acceptable? I'd say no. Many of you will have heard the parable of the good Samaritan. It's a lovely and enduring tale. Helping the downtrodden was a noble motive. But it didn't involve interfering in an ongoing fight. That's what the West is now doing, getting embroiled in not just one, but two civil wars at once, and as a side order inflaming extremism from Nigeria, through Algeria, Libya into the heart of the Middle East. The tragedy is that our simpleton politicians can't even see this.
Which bit of "leave well alone" is beyond the understanding of western politicians? Since Sykes-Picot they've interfered, meddled, messed and buggered up the whole place. So coming back to fair and balanced, who's winning? Irrespective of casualty numbers, the undisputed winners are the men of violence, and the forces of chaos. And our politicians must therefore fall into one of those two groups. I'll leave others to decide whether Obama, Cameron, Hollande et al are men of violence, or men of chaos.
I come from a military family, I have huge and enduring respect for the forces, I've worked in support roles to the military, my own son is shaping up to join the forces....if only our hugely skilled, professional, dedicated and competent forces were being used for good. Lions led by donkeys, yet again.