U.S. troop deaths increase in Afghanistan
MAIWAND DISTRICT, Afghanistan — At least five U.S. soldiers have been reported killed by Taliban attacks in Afghanistan in the past two days, one of the sharpest spikes in U.S. troop deaths in the country in weeks.
Three U.S. troops were reported to have died Friday after their vehicle struck a bomb in Zabul province in southern Afghanistan.
Two other soldiers were killed and nine were wounded Thursday after a suicide bomber blew himself up near a U.S. foot patrol in a crowded bazaar in the village of Hutal, in Maiwand district.
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force initially said that the suicide bomber blew up a car packed full of explosives in the Hutal bazaar. The attack also killed a local Afghan and wounded 21 others, NATO-led forces said.
But Maj. Cale Brown, executive officer for 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, which has overall responsibility for Maiwand district, said U.S. forces believe that the bomber may have been on foot and not in a vehicle, as initially reported.
Brown said it was unclear if the bomber was wearing a suicide vest or if the bomb was brought into the market by other means.
"How the stuff was packed is unknown," said Brown. "It’s not evident it was a [car bomb]. We’re not sure."
At least 12 foreign troops have been reported killed in southern Afghanistan since 2009 began, putting January on track to become one of the deadliest months in Afghanistan for U.S. and other NATO countries since the war began in 2001.
According to ISAF reports, 18 U.S. and other foreign soldiers were killed in action in southern Afghanistan in December, one of the highest monthly tolls among NATO-led forces in southern Afghanistan since the war began more than seven years ago.
The rise in deaths comes as the United States is preparing to send up to 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, to reinforce the 32,000 soldiers already in country. Most of these troops will be deployed to Kandahar, Helmand and Zabul provinces in southern Afghanistan, where they will bolster forces made up primarily of British, Canadian, Dutch and soldiers from other NATO countries, according to ISAF officials.
Violence by the Taliban, al-Qaida and other militant groups in Afghanistan is at an all-time high, and 2008 was the deadliest year for U.S. and other foreign troops since the U.S.-led coalition ousted the fundamentalist Taliban regime in 2001. Bombings, suicide attacks and assassinations have become an almost daily occurrence, and the Taliban and other groups now control large swaths of the countryside.
According to icasualties.org, a Web site that tracks U.S. and allied fatalities in Iraq and Afghanistan, 155 U.S. soldiers and 139 troops from other countries died in Afghanistan in 2008.