U.S. troop toll in Afghanistan falls with strategy shift
February 20th, 2013
06:18 AM ET

U.S. troop toll in Afghanistan falls with strategy shift

By Mike Mount

For the past month, the U.S. military has experienced something not seen for five years in Afghanistan: No combat deaths.

Three U.S. troops have died from hostile fire injuries since Jan. 1, and one of them succumbed to wounds sustained in December.

The trend marks the longest period without a U.S. combat death in America's longest war since 2008, and clearly reflects a strategy shift that leaves much of the fighting to Afghan security forces, whose deaths are going up.

Afghans now lead more than 80% of combat operations and control areas covering more than three-quarters of the population, according to U.S. military officials.

The U.S. military has pulled back from direct combat operations into the less dangerous role of advising and assisting Afghan forces.

American military officials said a cut in the number of American forces is another reason for the decline.

There were about 100,000 forces in Afghanistan during the peak of the military's troop surge. But that number fell by almost 40 percent when the last of those troops left in September and remains at about that level today.

Attacks by Taliban insurgents also have declined, officials have said.

Just as the U.S. toll has dropped, Afghan security force deaths have risen sharply.

"The Taliban are targeting the Afghan Army and police to try and show the populous the Afghan Security Forces cannot adequately protect them," said Col. David Lapan, spokesman for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"They are trying to undermine the future of the (Afghan Security Forces)," he said.

Having reached their peak of 352,000 last year, more Afghan security forces will also bring more casualties as well, according to defense officials.

"They really have taken on the bulk of the security responsibility and have been dying in very significant numbers as compared to their U.S. counterparts over the last three months," said Jeffrey Dressler, a senior analyst on Afghanistan with the Washington-based institute for the Study of War.

Last year was the deadliest so far for Afghan forces with more than 3,400 soldiers and police killed, up from 1,950 the previous year, according to a Brookings Institute study.

Some 237 U.S. troops were killed by hostile fire in 2012, down from 351 the previous year, according to Pentagon statistics.

While Afghan security force fatalities are up, a new report by the United Nations on Tuesday shows civilian deaths on the decline.

Civilian deaths in Afghanistan dropped 12% in 2012 - the first time that figure has fallen in six years, according to the U.N. Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA).

The report credits the decline to fewer suicide bombings, a drop in aerial attacks and less ground fighting between pro-government and militant forces.

The U.S.-led NATO military force has put strict limits on air strikes by coalition aircraft called in by NATO troops.

Last week, Afghan President Hamid Karzai banned Afghan security forces from calling in allied air strikes after at least 10 civilians were killed during an Afghan-led operation in eastern Kunar province earlier this month.

 

soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. AStamm

    Leave it to CNN to report on the death toll of troops falling. However, they've been absent the last 4 years while troop deaths increased and record numbers of Navy Seals have died. Great reporting to make it look like President Obama is actually a competent Commander and Chief.

    February 21, 2013 at 6:35 pm | Reply
  2. brown

    Duh! That's because the troops are staying in their camps.

    Your U.S. Congress lost the war for you in Afghanistan.

    Keep on re-electing them

    February 21, 2013 at 12:35 am | Reply
    • George Patton-2

      Now that was a stupid thing to say, brown! State of the art military hardware isn't quite everything as we already learned in Vietnam! The reason that we're not winning that stupid war is because the Taliban are too determined not to lose.

      February 21, 2013 at 1:47 pm | Reply
  3. Smokey

    Contrary to expectations, it'll be the taliban and assorted rebels that fall apart when the US leaves, not the Afghan government. With nobody to fight against and drive recruitment, their foot soldiers will go back to their farms and villages. The Afghan government knows enough to leave the troublemakers alone and not stir up too many hornets' nests by putting troops in every valley and settlement. America should have gone home years ago, al-qaeda's whole strategy was to pin American forces down where it was most expensive to maintain them, and create the biggest possible drain on our economy. Every day we are there, our enemies achieve another objective.

    February 20, 2013 at 11:57 pm | Reply
  4. DickPerry

    Which is more then you can say about in US. How many killed everyday in US? I would say more then most massacres reported on CNN..

    February 20, 2013 at 11:25 pm | Reply
  5. Homer10

    Wow. Amazing. Will wonders never cease. I'm reminded of the movie THX1138. There is a scene where a voice on an intercom cheerfully announces that there was a nuclear accident in sector 15, and only 143 people died. Keep up the good work.

    February 20, 2013 at 11:16 pm | Reply
  6. Hambone

    Well first we just had the tip in and now we're pulling out...great.

    February 20, 2013 at 11:02 pm | Reply
    • johnk

      Guess who will be pulling in after we scale down and almost leave. Hint, it is not Santa Claus!

      February 20, 2013 at 11:24 pm | Reply
  7. Fubarack

    That is good news. The majority of deaths have been since 2009, but not a shocker as everything is getting worse since 2009.

    February 20, 2013 at 10:52 pm | Reply
  8. Peter Halim

    don't jinx it CNN......just keep quiet.

    February 20, 2013 at 10:45 pm | Reply
  9. George Patton-2

    No, the US/NATO combat deaths have gone down because crook Pakistani generals, ISI, pain cloth Paki army terrorists were given ultimatum by Obama administration. Also, drones in Pakistan have made all muslim terrorists to fled the country, so no more cross border terrorism by Pakistanis.

    February 20, 2013 at 2:37 pm | Reply
  10. AmericanMuse

    Aren't they retreating? So what else do you expect!

    February 20, 2013 at 9:40 am | Reply
    • BigShiz

      Your right,we should stay another 12 year's loose 3000 more troops and 2 trillion in money. Your a regular genius

      February 20, 2013 at 9:47 am | Reply
    • George Patton-2

      Let's all hope that you're right, AmericanMuse. We need to get all the way out of there as soon as possible! In fact, we have no right to be there in the first place!!!

      February 20, 2013 at 1:37 pm | Reply
      • George Patton-2

        and I am Pakistani and my heart burns every time we use drones.

        February 20, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
  11. michaelfury

    They can't leave. They haven't found Osama's nanothermite factory yet.

    http://pulverizedtonearpower.wordpress.com/2012/07/12/pulverized-to-near-power/

    February 20, 2013 at 8:03 am | Reply

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