Foreign troops deaths in Afghanistan pass 2,000

By Sayed Salahuddin

KABUL (BestGrowthStock) – Total foreign military deaths in Afghanistan have passed 2,000 since the war began in late 2001, unofficial tallies showed on Sunday, more than 60 percent of them Americans but still far behind ever-growing civilian casualties.

The deaths of at least one more U.S. service member, an Australian and a Briton announced in the past two days have pushed the total to 2,002 since the Taliban were ousted in late 2001 by U.S.-backed Afghan forces.

The total is less than half that suffered during the seven years of the Iraq war but is a significant milestone nonetheless, with NATO allies like the Netherlands pulling out of the alliance and others reviewing their future roles.

It will also likely be an unwelcome figure for U.S. President Barack Obama, who has promised a strategy review in December after mid-term elections a month earlier in which his Democrats face a backlash from an increasingly skeptical public.

Disputes over the Afghan war have already brought down a Dutch government in February and a German president in May and, facing growing public doubts about the war at home, U.S. leaders have sought to lower expectations of what can be achieved.

According to www.iCasualties.org, an independent website that monitors foreign troop deaths, 2002 troops have been killed since 2001, 1,226 of them Americans. British losses total 331, with the remaining 445 shared among the other 44 NATO partners in the International Security Assistance Force.

Many more foreign soldiers have been wounded in a conflict Obama has described as a war of “necessity.”

FIGHT TO GET TOUGHER

U.S., British and other NATO commanders have warned the battle will only get tougher this year as foreign troops push ahead with plans to take control of Taliban strongholds in the south and confront other insurgents such as the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network in the east.

June 2010 was the bloodiest month of the war with 102 killed as foreign forces pushed ahead with operations in southern Helmand and Kandahar provinces.

Another 88 were killed in July, with total for the year so far standing at 434, according to iCasualties, fast approaching 2009’s 521. The increasing death toll comes as the number of foreign troops in Afghanistan grows toward 150,000 after Obama committed another 30,000 to the fight this year.

The losses in Afghanistan are less than half of those in the Iraq war, where at least 4,723 foreign troops have been killed since 2003, 4,405 of them American.

But, with Washington dramatically cutting troop numbers in Iraq before the formal end of combat operations on August 31, attention is certain to be focused back on the Afghan conflict.

Just as was the case in Iraq, civilians are bearing the brunt of the conflict in Afghanistan.

A report released by the United Nations last week showed civilian casualties had risen by 31 percent over the first six months of 2010, compared with the same period last year. That figure included 1,271 killed.

Civilian casualties caused by U.S. and other foreign forces have long been a source of friction between the Afghan government and its Western backers and led to a major falling-out between the two sides last year.

It also resulted in two tightenings of tactical directives by the commanders of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan in the past year, limiting the use of aerial strikes and house searches.

The U.N. report said Taliban and other insurgents were responsible for 76 percent of casualties.

Deaths caused by “pro-government forces” fell to 12 percent of the total from 30 percent last year, due mainly to a 64 percent fall in deaths caused by aerial attacks.

On Friday, Karzai, during a conference call with Obama, the commander of NATO and U.S. forces General David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, asked for a review of how the war is being conducted to further limit civilian casualties.

Losses among foreign troops since 2001 however are small compared with those during the Soviet occupation of the 1980s, when more than 14,000 were estimated to have been killed.

(Editing by Paul Tait and Sanjeev Miglani)

Foreign troops deaths in Afghanistan pass 2,000