Makeshift bomb attacks in Afghanistan killed three times as many coalition troops in the first two months of 2009 compared with the same period last year, USA Today reported Monday.
Improvised explosive devices killed 32 coalition troops in January and February, compared to 10 during the same period in 2008.
During the same time, 96 troops were wounded, a 146 percent increase from the 39 early last year, the paper reported, sourcing data from the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization. The numbers are final for January and preliminary for February, USA Today noted.
Charles McMinn, deputy research manager for HMS, a counter-IED consulting firm that provides information to the Pentagon, told USA Today that militants also appear to be using more sophisticated and powerful bombs, accounting for greater casualties.
"It’s a reflection of the increased activity of the Taliban," Senate Armed Services Committee member Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., was quoted as saying. "They’re adopting the tactics used by insurgents in Iraq."
The U.S. has sent thousands of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles to U.S. troops in Iraq, and that has contributed to a decrease in casualties from roadside bombs.
So far, 10,136 MRAPs have been fielded to U.S. troops in Iraq and 1,787 vehicles have been fielded to U.S. troops in Afghanistan, said Defense Department spokeswoman Cheryl Irwin.
But Afghanistan does not have Iraq’s developed road network, and that has severely limited where the heavy MRAPs can go.
Last year, the Defense Department announced it would send 882 lighter versions of the MRAP to Afghanistan.
Defense officials are also testing an even lighter vehicle, known as the MRAP-All Terrain Vehicle, which could be fielded to U.S. troops by the end of the year.
The increase in IED attacks could foreshadow a violent spring and summer as 17,000 more U.S. troops arrive in Afghanistan to bolster the force of 38,000 there now, USA Today wrote. There are also about 30,000 troops from allied nations in Afghanistan and about 79,000 Afghan soldiers.
Last year, 3,276 IEDs detonated or were detected before blowing up in Afghanistan, a 45 percent increase over 2007, and a record for the war, the paper noted.
IEDs are the top killer of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Since the war began, 589 U.S. servicemembers have been killed there, 434 of them in combat.