KABUL: Four US soldiers were killed Saturday in a Taliban-style bomb attack, NATO said, as the death toll of foreign soldiers in the Afghan war climbed closer to the 2,000 mark.
NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said the four died following an attack involving an improvised explosive device, or IED, the main weapon deployed by the Taliban in their insurgency. An ISAF spokeswomen confirmed the four were Americans.
The incident took place in southern Afghanistan, where the war is at its fiercest, an ISAF statement said. The deaths bring to 396 the toll of foreign soldiers killed in the war so far this year, compared to 520 for all of 2009. An AFP tally based on that kept by the icasualties.org website puts the number of soldiers to have died since the Afghan insurgency began in 2001 at 1,964, with 1,204 of them Americans.
IEDs are the main cause of foreign soldiers’ deaths, according to military officials, who say the payload of the crude home-made bombs is rising as the Taliban insurgents adapt to the greater defenses of the foreign forces.
The US and NATO have almost 150,000 troops in Afghanistan, with the surge of an extra 30,000 Americans ordered by US President Barack Obama almost fully deployed, most of them in the southern hotspots of Kandahar and Helmand.
Obama has said he wishes to start drawing down US forces in the middle of next year, and Britain, which has the second largest combat contingent in the country, is eager to pull out within five years. A conference in Kabul this week of Afghanistan’s international backers endorsed a plan for the country’s own security forces to take over security responsibilities by the end of 2014, so international combat troops can leave.
Afghanistan’s army and police are being trained by their international counterparts, with plans to reach a combined force of 300,000 by later this year. President Hamid Karzai made the pledge in his inauguration speech in November last year, when he began his second term as president, won in an election marred by massive fraud, mostly in his favour. His promise that Afghan’s security forces will be competent enough to work alone to secure the country from the Taliban onslaught has been met with some scepticism that numbers are more important than the ability to meet targets.