MAZAR-E-SHARIF, Afghanistan — A roadside bomb that struck an American military convoy in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday killed four U.S. soldiers, making 2009 the deadliest year for international forces here since the war began in late 2001.
The attack occurred while the Americans were patrolling in Kandahar province, the U.S. military said.
With four months left in the year, the deaths of the four U.S. soldiers Tuesday pushed the 2009 toll for NATO-led coalition troops to 295, one more than died in all of 2008, according to icasualties.org, a Web site that tracks military deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq. Of the total this year, 172 of those killed were Americans.
The Taliban is using roadside bombs "indiscriminately" in attacks that also kill large numbers of Afghan civilians, said Rear Adm. Gregory J. Smith, a U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan. He said the increased violence is a result of the Taliban exerting influence in a growing portion of the country.
"There is a growth in the number of individuals, most of which are assessed to be Afghans, which are fighting this fight," Smith said. "When you combine that with the increase in forces pursuing that insurgency … we should all expect an increase in casualties, unfortunate as that is."
The commander of the U.S. Central Command echoed that sentiment Tuesday, saying that growing numbers of American soldiers sent to Afghanistan will encounter tough fighting.
Gen. David Petraeus, who oversees U.S. combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and is best known for coordinating the troop surge that significantly reduced violence in Iraq, warned that "an enormous amount of hard work and tough fighting lies ahead" in Afghanistan.