Foreign Troop Deaths in Afghan War Top 700 in 2010

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Agence France-Presse

Foreign Troop Deaths in Afghan War Top 700 in 2010

by
Katherine Haddon

German Bundeswehr soldiers unload the coffin of their fallen comrade from a German Airforce aircraft at the airport in Termez December 21, 2010, to be transferred to Germany. A German soldier was felled by accident with a gunshot wound at an army outpost in Baghlan province during Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel's visit to Afghanistan on December 18, 2010. (REUTERS Photo/Fabrizio Bensch)

KABUL - The number of international troops killed in Afghanistan this
year, already by far the deadliest in the nine-year campaign against
the Taliban, has passed 700, an independent website said Tuesday.

The number of coalition forces killed fighting the Taliban in 2010 stood at 701, around a third higher than last year, iCasualties.org said, days after US President Barack Obama said the war strategy was "on track".

The
NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is fighting an
increasingly deadly and expanding Taliban insurgency and the majority of
the dead -- 493 -- are US troops, followed by Britons with 101, the
website added.

When asked about the figures, an ISAF spokesman
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."

Obama's
review came a year after he ordered an extra 30,000 US troops into the
war in a bid to defeat Al-Qaeda, reverse the Taliban insurgency and
allow American forces home as soon as possible.

The review
indicated that plans to start a limited withdrawal of some US forces
from July 2011 were still on course. International forces are due to
hand over control of security to their Afghan counterparts in 2014.

But
Obama warned that gains made in Taliban strongholds such as Kandahar
and Helmand provinces in the south were fragile and reversible.

The
Taliban were ousted from power by a US-led invasion in 2001 after the
September 11 attacks, which Washington linked to Al-Qaeda militants
being harboured by the Taliban.

There are around 140,000
international troops in Afghanistan. The nations contributing most to
the ISAF force are the United States, with 90,000 troops, and Britain,
with around 9,000.

The total international troop death toll last year stood at 521 while for 2008 the number was 295, according to iCasualties.

Opinion polls suggest that support for the war is dwindling in many countries that contribute troops to the international force.

Last
week, 60 percent of Americans surveyed for an ABC News/Washington Post
poll thought the war was not worth fighting, up seven points since July.

But
the number of international troops being killed in Afghanistan is still
substantially lower than the number of civilian casualties.

The
United Nations said in August that the number of civilian casualties in
the conflict rose by a third in the first six months of this year to
1,271.

It said insurgents killed seven times more civilians than
NATO-led troops, with the rising numbers linked to a near-doubling of
the number of civilian assassinations and more frequent home-made bomb
attacks.

The latest figures came as The New York Times reported
that senior US military commanders in Afghanistan are pushing to expand
special operations ground raids across the border in Pakistan's lawless
tribal areas.

But the story was denied by a spokesman for ISAF,
who said there was "absolutely no truth" to any suggestion that ground
operations into Pakistan were planned.

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