Friday, January 1, 2010

Annual death toll for coalition forces in Afghanistan tops 500 for first time

The annual death toll of international troops in Afghanistan has surpassed 500 for the first time.

The total last year was 502, compared with 286 in 2008.

The number of United States military deaths doubled. As of 30 December, 304 had been killed, up from 151 in 2008. The count does not include the eight US civilians killed by a suicide bomber
on Wednesday.

The figures, based on daily reports from Nato's International Security Assistance Force, found that 129 of the US fatalities in 2009 – or more than 40 per cent – had been caused by improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. The home-made bombs are hidden at the roadside or near buildings and detonated by remote control or pressure plates.

Among other forces, Britain took the worst blow in 2009, with 107 deaths, while Canada lost 32, including the four who died on Wednesday when their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb. Other countries in the military coalition lost a total of 59 service members.

American military officials acknowledge that the insurgency has momentum and that more troops on the battlefield means the death toll is likely to remain high in the near term. Another 30,000 reinforcements are due in coming months, raising the American presence in Afghanistan to 100,000.

In contrast, American deaths in Iraq dropped by half as troops largely remained on bases and the US prepared to withdraw by the end of 2011. Some 152 US service personnel died, down from 314 a year earlier.

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