Monday, November 12, 2007

2007 Now Deadliest Year For US Troops In Iraq And Afghanistan

From AFP :
Militants ambushed and killed six U.S. troops walking in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan — the most lethal attack in a year that has been the deadliest for the U.S. military here since the 2001 invasion.

The number of U.S. deaths in Afghanistan this year mirror the record toll in Iraq. Both conflicts have seen an increase in troop levels this year that has put more soldiers in harm's way, including those killed Friday while returning from a meeting with village elders in Nuristan province. Militants wielding rocket propelled grenades killed the six Americans and three Afghan soldiers. Eight U.S. troops were wounded.

"They were attacked from several enemy positions at the same time," Lt. Col. David Accetta, a spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force and the U.S. military, said Saturday. "It was a complex ambush."

The six deaths brings the number of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan this year to at least 101, according to an Associated Press count, surpassing the 93 troops killed in 2005. About 87 died last year. The toll echoes the situation in Iraq, where U.S. military deaths this year surpassed 850, also a record.

Launched in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, the war in Afghanistan quickly ousted al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden and his Taliban protectors and appeared to have been a swift military victory.

But insurgent attacks — advanced ambushes and suicide and roadside bombs — have risen sharply the last two years, and analysts say the counterinsurgency battle U.S. and NATO forces now face will take a decade or more to win.

Critics of the Bush administration say the Pentagon turned its attention away from Afghanistan during the build-up to the invasion in Iraq, leaving the military with too few resources here to back up that initial victory with an adequate security presence.

Though attacks in Iraq have dropped in recent months, U.S. troops there have also faced a rising number of suicide and roadside bombs since the 2003 invasion, known as asymmetric attacks in military circles.

U.S. forces have two combat brigades — more than 8,000 troops — in eastern Afghanistan this year, up from one last year. The U.S. has about 25,000 forces in Afghanistan today — 15,000 under NATO and 10,000 under the U.S.-led coalition.

Insurgents have launched more than 130 suicide attacks, a record number, and Afghanistan last week saw its deadliest attack since 2001, a suicide bombing in Baghlan province that killed about 75 people, including 59 students and six members of parliament.

More than 5,800 people, mostly militants, have died due to insurgency-related violence this year, also a record, according to an AP count based on figures from Western and Afghan officials.

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