In Deadliest Month, 53 U.S. Troops Die in Afghanistan
KABUL, Afghanistan — Eight Americans died in combat in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday, bringing October’s total to 53 and making it the deadliest month for Americans in the eight-year war. September and October were both deadlier months overall for NATO troops.
The troops, along with an Afghan civilian accompanying them, were killed in several attacks involving “multiple, complex” improvised bombs, according to a statement from the NATO-led coalition.
A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, said that Taliban in Zabul Province were responsible. He said they had blown up two armored vehicles carrying the troops. He also said that the Taliban had engaged in a fierce firefight lasting more than a half-hour with Afghan police in Zabul and killed eight officers. His report could not be verified because the American military is with-holding additional information until the families of the dead had been notified.
On Oct. 26, two incidents involving helicopter crashes resulted in the death of eleven American troops and three drug enforcement agents, but hostile fire was almost certainly not a factor in those cases, according to a military spokesman.
The October toll of 53 American soldiers killed exceeds that of August, when 51 died, according to icasualties.org, a Web site that tracks military losses in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The United States has been increasing the number of soldiers and marines in Afghanistan and many have gone into some of the toughest areas of the country. Southern Afghanistan has been the most contested ground with both locally-based insurgents and fighters that cross the border from Pakistan.
“A loss like this is extremely difficult for the families as well as for those who served alongside these brave service members,” said Capt. Jane Campbell of the Navy, a spokeswoman for the international troops.
The mounting casualties come as President Barack Obama is deliberating over whether to send more troops to Afghanistan and whether to undertake a full counter-insurgency strategy, which requires a larger commitment of resources. The American public is split on whether to put more troops in harm’s way.
Also on Tuesday, the American and NATO-led forces said an Army plane that had been missing since Oct. 13 was found with the remains of three civilian crew members on Oct. 21 in the high mountains of northeastern Afghanistan over Nuristan Province, where the military has been conducting extensive operations. The army said the plane’s disappearance had not been announced until recovery efforts were complete.
The aircraft was stripped of all sensitive materials and destroyed in place, according to a statement from the NATO-led forces. The case is under investigation, but the military said it did not think that hostile action was the cause of the crash.Taimoor Shah contributed reporting.