Foreign troop deaths in Afghan war top 700 in 2010

The number of coalition forces killed in fighting Taliban this year is a third higher than in 2009.


Afp December 22, 2010

KABUL: International troop deaths in Afghanistan topped 700 in 2010, an independent website said on Tuesday, with US military chiefs reportedly pushing to expand special operations ground raids into Pakistan.

The number of coalition forces killed fighting the Taliban this year - already the deadliest in the nine-year war - now stands at 702, around a third higher than in 2009, according to an AFP tally based on iCasualties.org.

US troops account for some 70 per cent of the deaths and the bloody milestone came just days after a review said President Barack Obama's war strategy was "on track." Last year, Obama ordered an extra 30,000 US troops to Afghanistan in a bid to rout al Qaeda, reverse the Taliban insurgency and bring American forces home as soon as possible.

Limited withdrawals are expected to start next July, with responsibility for security being handed to Afghan forces in 2014, although Obama has acknowledged that combat troops might remain into 2015. When asked about the death toll, a spokesman for the US-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) highlighted increased pushes against the Taliban as part of Obama's surge strategy in the war.

"We have been saying there will be increased operations with the increase of troops and the increased focus on insurgent safe havens," the spokesman told AFP. "We expected and continue to expect the enemy to fight back as we push into those areas and clear them."

The New York Times reported on Tuesday that senior US military commanders in Afghanistan are pushing to boost ground raids by special operations forces across the border in Pakistan's tribal areas. The calls come amid growing US frustration with Pakistani efforts to remove militants from strongholds there, the paper said.

There are around 140,000 international troops in Afghanistan. The nations contributing most are the United States, with 90,000 troops, and Britain, with around 9,000. The bulk of this year's ISAF dead -- 493 -- are US troops, followed by Britons with 101, according to iCasualties. The total international troop death toll last year stood at 521 while for 2008 the number was 295, the website added.

But Western public support for the increasingly deadly and costly war is dwindling in many countries that contribute troops to the international force. Last week, 60 per cent of Americans surveyed for an ABC News/Washington Post poll thought the war was not worth fighting, up seven points since July.

The number of international troops being killed in Afghanistan is still substantially lower than the number of civilian casualties. The latest victims were five civilians killed in a firefight involving Nato-led troops in Helmand province, in the south, Isaf said on Tuesday.

"Insurgents attacked coalition forces from a compound with small arms fire and machine guns," Isaf said in a statement. "Initial reports indicate, after gaining positive identification of the insurgents' position, coalition forces engaged with direct and indirect fire.

"Following the engagement, coalition forces conducted a battle damage assessment and discovered five civilian casualties." The incident was described as a "tragedy" by Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Hynes of Isaf.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a report earlier this month that the number of civilian casualties rose 20 per cent in the first 10 months of this year compared with the same period last year. There were 2,412 deaths and 3,803 injuries in that time, according to preliminary UN figures.

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