Foreign troop deaths in Afghanistan at highest level

KABUL (Reuters) – More foreign soldiers were killed in Afghanistan during August than in any other month since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion, an independent website said, reflecting a rise in Taliban attacks.

Forty-three foreign soldiers were killed in combat in August, five more than in June, the second highest month, according to icasualties.org, an independent website that tracks troop casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq.

While not confirming that August was the deadliest month for foreign troops, the top military spokesman for the NATO-led force in Afghanistan said that deaths had peaked this summer.

“I know that combined together, the three summer months have been the worst since 2001,” Brigadier-General Richard Blanchette told Reuters on Friday.

Afghanistan has seen a significant year-on-year rise in foreign troop deaths since 2003 and that trend looks set to continue. More than 200 soldiers have been killed in combat and by other causes already this year, compared with 232 in 2007.

“Yes indeed, that’s a good description,” Blanchette said when asked whether the increase in troop deaths was due to the Taliban mounting more attacks on foreign forces.

“This is a resilient insurgency. There are still a large number of opponents. These militants are well organised, they are still in a position to mount attacks,” he said.

Like Iraq, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), or roadside bombs, are the main cause of death for foreign troops in Afghanistan. Between April and June this year there were about 200 such incidents, the highest level in at least four years.

“The use of IEDs has increased by a large percentage,” Blanchette said.

AMBUSH

The Taliban have also been able to launch more daring and deadly attacks on foreign forces, in what Canada’s top general acknowledged was a worrying jump in direct violence after three Canadian soldiers were killed this week.

Last month, 10 French soldiers were killed in an ambush just outside the capital, Kabul, in what was the biggest single loss of foreign soldiers in combat since the beginning of the war.

In July, nine U.S. soldiers were killed in a single attack on an Afghan army and NATO outpost in northeastern Afghanistan.

While civilian casualties have also mounted in recent months, it is the issue of troop deaths that has sparked fresh debates in some countries about their continued presence in Afghanistan.

The French parliament will hold a special debate and a vote this month on whether to continue France’s engagement in Afghanistan.

The German parliament is also due to vote on whether to increase troop numbers to fight a growing insurgency.

Canada has a national election next month where the Afghan troop deployment is expected to figure prominently.

Blanchette said that winning the war greatly depended on the capacity of the Afghan army and police, the key to the nation’s long-term security.

“They (militants) have no chance of winning militarily against us, said Blanchette.

“Our chance of winning is really hinging on the fact that we have more and more ANA (Afghan National Army) that are better trained, more ANP (Afghan National Police) that are better trained,” he said.

Check Also

Will China Replace the US in Afghanistan?

Despite heightened expectations, significant Chinese assistance to Afghanistan is unlikely to materialise soon. The Taliban’s …