Bloodiest year for foreign forces in Afghanistan

Kabul, September 30:

The deaths yesterday of three soldiers made this year the deadliest for international troops with the US-led force fighting insurgents in Afghanistan, according to an AFP tally.

In just nine months, at least 221 international soldiers, most of them Americans, have lost their lives in the US-led "war on terror" in Afghanistan, figures compiled by AFP show.

In 2007, a total of 219 troops died.

There is no official authority that releases death tolls for the battle, but the independent website, which tracks casualties based on news reports and press releases, says the toll has tipped that of last year.

Icasualties puts the fatalities so far this year at 233, excluding the three soldiers killed yesterday, and including some involved in the Afghan mission who died outside of the country. The website said 232 troops died last year.

In Iraq, where the international force is larger, 274 foreign soldiers have died this year compared to nearly 1,000 last year, the website said.

The increasing number of deaths in Afghanistan is linked to the rise in troop levels and their increased range, International Security Assistance Force spokesman Brigadier General Richard Blanchette told AFP.

In January 2007 the NATO-led ISAF consisted of 37,000 soldiers, compared with 50,000 in January this year. There are several thousand more international troops in a separate US-led coalition.

"We have more troops than ever and we are going into areas where we have have never been before with the aim of pushing out the enemy," he said.

"Unfortunately, in certain cases that translates into losses on our side. But the insurgents are suffering enormous losses." International forces and the Afghan military do not keep track of the number of rebels they kill. It is difficult to chart the figures with the forces themselves regularly issuing different accounts of the same incident.

A report to the UN Security Council last week said more than 3,800 lives had been lost in insurgency-related violence by the end of July and more than one-third were civilians. It did not give a further breakdown.

Icasualties says nearly 1,000 international troops involved in the Afghanistan campaign have been killed since the US-led invasion in late 2001 that toppled the Taliban for not surrendering their Al-Qaeda allies.

Blanchette said that despite some spectacular events, like an August ambush that killed 10 French troops in the deadliest incident for international forces since 2001, the insurgents were carrying out fewer organised attacks.

They were instead relying on homemade bombs, which were being used 55 percent more this year compared to last, he said.

ISAF had calculated that seven civilians were killed for every soldiers who died in an insurgent bomb.