Intensified military operations against the Taliban are behind a surge in troop deaths in Afghanistan, Nato said on Sunday, as the alliance announced the 93rd fatality in a record month for casualties.
Nato’s International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) said three more foreign soldiers had died in Taliban attacks – two US personnel killed in gunfights on Sunday and one from an unidentified nation in a bomb blast on Saturday.
The deaths bring to 313 the total number of soldiers to have died in Afghanistan this year. The number killed in June alone stands at 93, according to an AFP count, by far the deadliest monthly toll since the war began in late 2001.
However, an Isaf spokesman said the grim toll was a measure of success as the alliance takes the fight to the Taliban with the influx of thousands more troops into the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar.
“With the build-up of the additional reinforcements we have been able to confront the insurgency and Taliban in areas where they have not been challenged for years,” Brigadier General Josef Blotz said.
“That’s one of the reasons that we’re seeing some more violence these days and weeks. And unfortunately this also leads to a higher casualty rate,” he told reporters.
The deaths come as questions intensify over the war effort following last week’s sacking of the top US military officer in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, over an inflammatory magazine profile.
Police in western Afghanistan said meanwhile that more than a dozen rebels had been killed in fighting with Afghan and international forces, mostly on Saturday.
Ten rebels were killed in a gunfight with Nato-led troops in the northwestern province of Badghis while four others were killed after attacking a police convoy transporting captured militants in neighbouring Farah province the same day, police said.
On Friday, eight Arabs, five Pakistanis and two Afghans were killed when an improvised explosive device exploded while they were producing the devices, the interior ministry said.
But even as political opposition in Nato countries builds against the war, Isaf’s spokesman said the tide was turning.
“It’s a tough time we’re in. We’re in the arena, there’s no way out now. We’ve to stay on,” the spokesman said.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 28th, 2010.
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