Afghanistan deadlier than Iraq
- With the Taliban bolstered by a prison break that freed 886, 45
international troops died in June; in Iraq, 31 died.
Afghanistan deadlier than Iraq
By Jason Straziuso
Tue, Jul. 1, 2008
KABUL, Afghanistan - Militants killed more U.S. and NATO troops in
Afghanistan than in Iraq last month, as they did in May. The grim
milestone capped a run of headline-grabbing insurgent attacks that
analysts say underscore the Taliban's growing strength. The
extremist militia in June staged a sophisticated jailbreak that
freed 886 prisoners, then briefly infiltrated a strategic valley
outside the city of Kandahar.
Last week, a Pentagon report forecast that the Taliban would
maintain or increase its pace of attacks, which is already up 40
percent this year from 2007 in the area along the Pakistan border
where U.S. troops operate.
Last month also saw the international community meet in Paris to
pledge $21 billion in aid to Afghanistan, but Barnett Rubin, an
expert on that country at New York University, warns that there is
still no strategy to turn that commitment into success.
While the two-month casualty trend is in part due to falling
violence in Iraq, it also reflects rising violence in Afghanistan.
At least 45 international soldiers - including 27 Americans and 13
Britons - died in Afghanistan last month, the deadliest month since
the 2001 U.S.-led invasion to oust the Taliban, according to an AP
In Iraq, at least 31 international soldiers died in June: 29
Americans and one each from the former Soviet republics of Georgia
and Azerbaijan. There are 144,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and 4,000
British forces, along with small contingents from other nations.
The 40-nation international coalition is much broader in
Afghanistan, where only about half of the 65,000 international
troops are American.
Taliban attacks are becoming increasingly complex, and in June,
A gun and bomb attack last week in Ghazni province blasted a U.S.
humvee into smoldering ruins, killing three U.S. soldiers and an
Afghan interpreter. It was the fourth attack of the month against
international troops in each of which four people were killed. No
single attack had killed more than three international troops since
"Insurgents now are more active, more organized, and the political
environment, whether in Pakistan or Afghanistan, favors insurgent
activities," said Mustafa Alani, the director of security and
terrorism studies at the Dubai-based Gulf Research Center.
U.S. commanders have blamed Pakistani efforts to negotiate peace
deals for the spike in cross-border attacks, though an initial deal
with militants has begun to fray.
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told visiting senior
State Department official Richard Boucher his government was
negotiating only with groups willing to lay down weapons, according
to a statement from Gilani's office.
The two met as Pakistan's paramilitary Frontier Corps continued an
offensive in the border region where extremists threaten the city of
For a moment in mid-June, Afghanistan's future shimmered brightly.
World leaders gathered in Paris to pledge $21 billion in aid, and
Afghan officials unveiled a development strategy that envisions
peace by 2020.
But the very next day, the massive and flawlessly executed assault
on the prison in Kandahar - the Taliban's spiritual home - drew
grudging respect even from Western officials.
U.S. Ambassador William Wood saw some good news in the episode.
In an interview, he said the scramble after the jailbreak to push
the Taliban back from the nearby Arghandab Valley was a big plus.
"Although Arghandab got major press for being a Taliban attack,"
Wood said, "the real news in Arghandab was that the Afghans
themselves led the counterattack, deployed very rapidly, and chased
the Taliban away."
NATO, US forces suffer deadliest month in Afghanistan
AFP News Briefs
June was the deadliest month for foreign troops in Afghanistan since the 2001 fall of the Taliban and the second in a row in which casualties exceeded those in Iraq, official figures showed Tuesday.
Forty-nine soldiers from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the separate US-led coalition died in combat, attacks or accidents in June, according to an AFP tally based on military statements.
June accounted for more than 40 percent of the 122 deaths of foreign soldiers in Afghanistan during 2008, according to the independent website icasualties.org.
Most were killed by roadside bombs hitting their convoys or patrols.
ISAF spokesman General Carlos Branco said the figures should be seen in the context of rising numbers of international forces fighting a resurgent Taliban militia.
"ISAF has many more soldiers now than in the past and is now going to places where it was not going before," Branco told AFP.
By contrast, 31 soldiers including 29 Americans were killed in Iraq in June despite the fact that there are more than twice as many troops there as in Afghanistan, icasualties figures showed.
International casualties in Afghanistan also outstripped those in Iraq in May.
Foreign soldier deaths in Afghanistan hit 23 in May, 19 of them by hostile fire, while in Iraq the number of coalition soldiers killed dropped to 21, of whom 17 where in action.
"If you want to compare the same period last year with the year to date (January 1- June 21) you find 55 in 2007 and 70 in 2008. However, comparisons in this domain can be very misleading if you don't put them into context," Branco said.
He said that in January 2007 ISAF had 37,493 members and as of January 2008 there were nearly 50 000.
"The ratio of killed in action per 1,000 troops in 2007 and 2008 is nearly the same. The ratio of killed in action per military engagements in 2007 and 2008 is again the same," he said.
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