Monday 24 July 2017

Afghan toll hits 1,000 as US braced for more dead

Number of soldiers killed in battle almost doubles since last year

Ben Farmer in Kabul

The American death toll in Afghanistan reached 1,000 yesterday, with the number of soldiers killed almost doubling since last year.

As the coalition tried to regain momentum in its eight-year campaign, the Pentagon announced that the latest American serviceman to be killed was Corporal Gregory Stultz (22), who died on February 19 from small arms fire in Helmand province.

The icasualties.org website, which tracks military deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq, said 54 US soldiers had died so far this year. This compared with a toll of 30 in the first two months of last year.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said the efforts against the Taliban were "messy" and "incredibly wasteful", as was war in general.

"But that doesn't mean it's not worth the cost," Admiral Mullen added. "We must steel ourselves, no matter how successful we are on any given day, for harder days yet to come."

In an operational update, Nato said: "Afghan and combined forces continue to encounter small but determined pockets of resistance."

Last year proved to be the bloodiest yet for international troops, with 519 killed -- up more than 75pc on the previous year.

Britain has the second highest toll, with 264, while Canada has the highest in proportion to the size of its force.

General David Petraeus, the head of the US Central Command region that overseas the war, also tried to brace Americans for more casualties.

"These types of efforts are hard, and they're hard all the time," he said.

The passing of a grim milestone in the war will be a reminder to the White House that much of the public and the left-wing of US President Obama's Democratic Party have a limited tolerance for the war.

The conflict has dragged on for years without tangible progress since the very early success of removing the Taliban government. The casualty rate has not, however, yet reached the point it did in Iraq that drove public opinion resolutely against the war.

General Stanley McChrystal, the Nato commander, went on television to apologise for a mistaken air strike on Sunday that killed 27 Afghan civilians. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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