U.S. toll in Afghan is rising

KABUL, Afghanistan — A roadside bomb killed four U.S. soldiers in eastern Afghanistan on Monday, adding to the toll in what has already been the conflict's deadliest month for Western forces. The latest deaths push the number of coalition troops killed in July to at least 55 — 30 of them American.

U.S. military officials have forecast a bloody summer in Afghanistan, in part because thousands of newly arrived U.S. troops are pushing into areas previously controlled by the Taliban.

A major U.S.- and British-spearheaded military offensive is under way in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province. But the eastern region bordering Pakistan's volatile tribal areas has also been one of the most dangerous areas. In addition to being the scene of Monday's U.S. troop deaths, it is the sector from which a U.S. soldier was captured by insurgents June 30.

Military authorities on Monday also disclosed the death of a British soldier a day earlier in Helmand province. The sharply rising number of British combat fatalities — 16 so far this month — has triggered intense debate in Britain, the second-largest partner in NATO's International Security Assistance Force.

Intensifying combat in large swaths of the country has put Afghan civilians in peril as well. Afghan officials said Monday that 11 civilians were killed the previous day when their van struck a roadside bomb in a remote area of Farah province, which borders Iran. An additional three civilians were killed Sunday when German troops in the northern province of Kunduz opened fire on a pickup truck they said was approaching a checkpoint at high speed.

Afghanistan also has seen a highly unusual run of aviation accidents in recent days. In the latest incident, a British jet fighter crashed just after takeoff Monday at Kandahar Airfield, the alliance's main hub for operations in the south. The crew ejected safely. The NATO-led force ruled out insurgent fire in the crash.

FAST FACTS

Troop increase

Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced Monday that the size of the Army will be increased temporarily by 22,000 soldiers to help meet the needs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other missions around the world. The Army currently has a total troop strength of 547,000, including 65,000 soldiers who were added in recent years.

Associated Press

Troop increase

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Monday the size of the Army will be increased temporarily by 22,000 soldiers to help meet the needs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other missions around the world. The Army has a total troop strength of 547,000, including 65,000 soldiers added in recent years.

Associated Press

U.S. toll in Afghan is rising 07/20/09 [Last modified: Monday, July 20, 2009 11:15pm]

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