US Afghan troop deaths soar

2010-01-01 08:20

Kabul - US military deaths in Afghanistan doubled in 2009 compared with a year ago as 30 000 additional troops began pouring in for a stepped-up offensive and the Taliban fought back with powerful improvised bombs.

A tally by The Associated Press shows 304 American service members had died as of December 30, up from 151 in 2008. The count does not include eight US civilians killed by a suicide bomber on a base in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday.

Also, the annual death toll of international troops, including US forces, surpassed 500 for the first time in the war. The total this year was 502 compared with 286 in 2008, according to the AP count.

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

US military officials acknowledge that the insurgency has the 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 to 100 000.

In contrast, US deaths in Iraq dropped by half as troops largely remained on bases and the United States prepares to withdraw from that country by the end of 2011. There, 152 American service members died, down from 314 a year earlier, according to figures compiled by the AP from US Defence Department information.

Rising toll

The sharply rising death toll in Afghanistan was an obstacle for President Barack Obama as he decided in November to send more forces to the war, which is increasingly unpopular in both America and Europe.

Afghan civilian deaths are more difficult to track, but according to the United Nations mission in Afghanistan, 2 021 were killed in the first 10 months of the year, nearly 1 400 of them by insurgents and 465 by US and other pro-government forces.

Over the past eight years, at least 933 US service members have died in the military campaign that was launched in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks, according to US Defence Department figures that include deaths in Pakistan, Uzbekistan and support operations elsewhere.

As the second surge gets under way, the potential carnage troops face from improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, is a major worry.

The AP count, based on daily reports from NATO's International Security Assistance Force, found that 129 of the US fatalities in 2009 - or more than 40% - were caused by IEDs. The homemade bombs are hidden along the roadside or near buildings and detonated by remote control or triggered when troops cross simple pressure plates.

The Taliban were slower than Iraqi insurgents to adopt IEDs, but they now appear to be the weapon of choice against the Americans' superior artillery and armoured vehicles, said a senior intelligence official with the international force. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

19 per day

There were more than 7 000 IED incidents in 2009 - including explosions, the discovery and defusing of the bombs or civilians turning them in - compared to just 81 in 2003, the official said.

He estimated that more than three-quarters of all American deaths and injuries in Afghanistan were due to the improvised explosives.

IEDs also take a harsh toll on civilians. In the last four months of the year, 117 were killed by the devices, either deliberately or inadvertently, including 30 who died when a bus ran over an IED in September.

Although the US Defence Department established a body in 2006 to oversee anti-IED efforts, a report by the Government Accountability Office in October criticised it for lacking "full visibility and co-ordination".

The Defence Department's top weapons-buyer, Ashton Carter, told reporters in November that the United States was "just beginning to get set" in developing a full-scale strategy against the bombs.

Defence Secretary Robert Gates announced in November that a new task force on the matter was being formed.

One initiative under way is shipping a more manoeuvrable version of the heavily armoured vehicles known as MRAPs - Mine Resistant Ambush Protected - to Afghanistan. Although these can withstand blasts better than other military vehicles such as Humvees and Strykers, the Taliban are responding by building bigger IEDs.

The intelligence official said that 18 months ago, the explosive charges typically weighed about 11kg, but charge weights in some recent cases have been upward of 450kg - enough to destroy an MRAP.

- AP
Read more on:    taliban  |  afghanistan  |  war

Read News24’s Comments Policy


Inside News24


3 sports games you have to watch this weekend

Whether it’s date night or a braai with buddies, plan around these three exciting sporting games!

Everyday struggles of naturally skinny guys
And this year's Miss Bumbum title goes to...
How to maintain your mo, bro
Hottie of the day: Colette

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now! - shop online today

20% off ALL TV Series

Choose from 1000’s of the hottest TV Series . While stocks last. Shop now!

Festive gifts!

Check out our awesome range of festive gifts to make everyone’s wishes come true. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Save up to R2200 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at While stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 35% off books

Save up to 35% on the latest page-turners. While stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25


“To infinity and beyond”….. As the Sun and the Moon move into Sagittarius you are able to let go of the emotional intensity of more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.