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Q&A | Troops in Afghanistan

U.S., NATO battling on multiple fronts

Eight days ago about 200 insurgents attacked a U.S. outpost in eastern Afghanistan. Nine Americans were killed and 15 wounded. The position was later abandoned. The attack deepened doubts about efforts to contain Islamic militants. Here's a look at U.S. and NATO-led strength in Afghanistan.

How many foreign troops are in Afghanistan?

Roughly 60,000, most under the command of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. A separate U.S. force is concentrated in the east, near the border with Pakistan.

How many are U.S. forces?

The U.S. contributes about 17,500 troops to ISAF. It has another 18,500 operating as part of Operation Enduring Freedom's war on terrorism. (The number is higher than the usual 13,500 because of overlapping rotations.) They continue to engage Taliban and al-Qaida militants, preventing them from using the region as a base for terror operations. As with ISAF, they also assist in reconstruction and train security forces. OEF, like U.S. forces in Iraq, is under the command of U.S. Central Command, based at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.

Who established the NATO force?

An initial security force was created by the U.N. Security Council in December 2001, after a U.S.-led invasion toppled the Taliban regime and flushed out al-Qaida. In 2003, NATO was asked to take over command, completing the process in late 2006. It is NATO's largest mission and its first outside Europe.

Who are its main contributors?

Forty counties are in the ISAF. The largest contributors are the United States and Britain, which has 7,800 troops. ISAF is backed by 28,600 Afghan army soldiers and 30,200 Afghan police officers.

How are relations among the nations?

The United States and others have had little success in getting NATO allies to boost combat roles in the south. Germany has made it clear it will not provide more than the 3,200 troops already based in the north. Canada has warned it will pull out unless NATO reinforcements are sent.

What about Pakistan?

Cooperation among Pakistan, Afghanistan and U.S. and NATO forces has been strained by accusations that Taliban, al-Qaida and other militants enjoy sanctuary on Pakistan soil.

How is the battle going?

Monthly death tolls of U.S. and NATO troops surpassed U.S. deaths in Iraq in May and June. The recent surge is mostly a result of pursuing militants during the summertime "fighting season." However, overall violence has been on the rise for two years. The latest attack reinforced recent U.S. assessments that militant attacks are becoming more complex and better coordinated. At least 476 U.S. troops (31 from Florida) and more than 330 from other nations have died in the Afghanistan war.

Sources: BBC News, Times wires, ISAF, Department of Defense, CNN

U.S., NATO battling on multiple fronts 07/20/08 [Last modified: Monday, November 1, 2010 4:32pm]
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