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Aug 1st, 2009

July Deadliest Month for Troops in Afghanistan

U.N. report says Afghan civilian deaths up by 24 percent

Image: U.S. Marines in Afghanistan
A U.S. Marine takes up a fighting position after jumping off a helicopter during the start of Operation Khanjari on July 2, 2009 in Afghanistan. Forty U.S. troops were killed in July 2009, by far the heaviest monthly toll in the 8-year-old war. (Photo credit: Joe Raedle / Getty Images)

Reuters and The Associated Press via
July 31, 2009

GENEVA — A U.S. service member was killed as the deadliest month for foreign troops in the Afghanistan war drew to a close, the U.S. military said on Friday, with commanders vowing to continue the fight despite the toll.

The death in southern Afghanistan brought to 40 the number of U.S. troops killed in July, by far the heaviest monthly toll in the 8-year-old war. The worst previous month for U.S. forces was in September 2008, when 26 were killed.

The latest death occurred in a firefight with insurgents in southern Afghanistan on Thursday, the U.S. military said, without giving further details. At least 70 foreign troops have been killed in July.

Britain has suffered its worst battlefield casualties since the 1980s Falklands War, with the 22 troops killed in the month taking its total losses in Afghanistan to 191, 12 more than were killed in the Iraq war.

Casualties spiked after thousands of U.S. and British troops this month launched major operations in southern Helmand province, a Taliban stronghold and the center of Afghanistan’s opium production. …

The United Nations also said Friday the number of civilians killed in conflict in Afghanistan jumped 24 percent so far this year, with bombings by insurgents and airstrikes by international forces the biggest single killers.

In a grim assessment of the first half of 2009, the U.N. assistance mission in Afghanistan said the Taliban and other anti-government militants have become more deadly by shifting from ambush attacks to suicide bombings, roadside explosives and targeted assassinations.

It warned that more civilians would likely be killed as insurgents try to battle a troop increase by the administration of President Barack Obama, and seek to destabilize the country before presidential and Provincial Council elections on Aug. 20. The summer is also typically the worst for fighting in Afghanistan. …

Slide presentation
Image: U.S. Marines Continue Suppression Of Insurgents
On the front lines in Afghanistan
President Barack Obama deepens American involvement in Afghanistan.

The report said international forces have given high priority to minimizing civilian casualties, but along with Afghan forces have killed 310 civilians. Of those, 200 were killed in 40 airstrikes. The total death toll — including those which couldn’t be attributed to either side — of 1,013 civilians is 24 percent higher than in the same period in 2008, and 48 percent higher than in 2007. …

‘New trend’

The report said civilian deaths rose every month this year as compared with 2008 except February, as insurgent forces sustained attacks throughout the winter in a break from previous years when there was a lull in fighting. Other factors were the increased fighting in urban areas, more complex Taliban attacks and the return of militants fleeing warfare across the border in Pakistan. The intensified operations by U.S. forces was also cited.

May was the deadliest month, with 261 civilians killed. The Taliban and other insurgents were responsible for most of the deaths, but 81 were killed by government or international forces, the United Nations said.

The South has been the worst region as a result of instability in Pakistan and the increase in U.S. activity. Only six civilians were killed in the West of the country in April, but that figure soared in May as a result of airstrikes in Bala Baluk, Farah Province, that killed at least 63 women and children, according to the report. …

The United Nations also noted what it called a “new trend” in insurgent attacks. Since May, they have attached magnetic explosive devices to vehicles to target civilians who have worked with government or international military forces. …

Insurgents have become increasingly sophisticated as well. The report said there has been a rise in coordinated attacks using explosive devices and suicide bombers to target government ministries and offices, “with the intention of incurring the largest amount of casualties.” In those attacks, civilian government workers were deliberated singled out and shot, despite clearly being noncombatants, it said. …


Late update

Roadside Bombs Slay 3 GIs in Afghanistan

August 1, 2009

KABUL — Three U.S. troops were killed Saturday when roadside bombs ripped through their patrol in southern Afghanistan, while a French soldier died in a gunbattle north of the capital, officials said.

The Americans were killed in the southern Kandahar province, said Navy Chief Petty Officer Brian Naranjo. He gave no further details on the blasts, pending notification of the victims’ families.

Roadside bombs have become the militants’ weapon of choice in Afghanistan, and the number of such attacks has spiked this year, as thousands of additional American forces have joined the fight. President Barack Obama has ordered 21,000 additional troops to Afghanistan and expects the total number of U.S. forces here to reach 68,000 by year’s end.

That’s double the number of U.S. troops that were in Afghanistan in 2008 but still half as many as are now in Iraq.

Deaths among U.S. and other NATO troops have also soared this year. With 74 foreign troops killed — including 43 Americans — July was the deadliest month for international forces since the start of the war in 2001. …


8/2/09 Update

3 U.S. Troops Killed in Afghanistan Ambush

August 2, 2009

KABUL — Three American soldiers died in a complex militant ambush in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday, raising NATO’s two-day August death toll to nine and continuing the bloodiest period of the eight-year war for U.S. and allied troops. …

Militants in eastern Afghanistan killed the three U.S. troops with gunfire after attacking their convoy with a roadside bomb, the U.S. military said.

The deaths Sunday brought to nine the number of NATO troops killed this month, after six NATO troops died on Saturday. Six of the nine deaths were American. July was the deadliest month for international troops since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion to oust the Taliban government for sheltering al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, with 74 foreign troops, including 43 Americans, killed. …

Roadside bombs have become the militants’ weapon of choice in Afghanistan, and the number of such attacks has spiked this year. U.S. troops say militants are now using bombs with little or no metal in them, making them even harder to detect. Militants are also planting multiple bombs on top of one another and planting several bombs in one small area. …


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago Today — August 1, 2008

On the Campaign Trail: Day 18

One year ago today, on the 18th day of my campaign against U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann in Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District — a day five soldiers were reported killed in Afghanistan — I addressed the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, where violence had begun to spread to once-stable regions. I also reported that economic indicators were showing that the U.S. had begun to slide into recession. (Six weeks later, in mid-September, Sen. John McCain was still arguing on the campaign trail that “the fundamentals of our economy are strong.”)

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