American troop casualties in Afghanistan steeply fall
WASHINGTON — Deaths of American troops in Afghanistan have plunged to the lowest level in four years, reflecting a pullback from direct combat into the less deadly role of advising and assisting Afghan forces as they do more of the fighting.
Attacks by the Taliban also have declined, although the war is far from finished.
Pentagon figures show that three American soldiers died in January — the lowest monthly total since December 2008. One of the soldiers died of injuries suffered in December.
The total of 30 American deaths during the past three months is the lowest for any three-month stretch of the war since late 2008 and early 2009.
The improvement is more than a statistical note. It marks the approaching end of battlefield sacrifice by troops who fought the nation's two post-9/11 wars — more than eight years in Iraq and 11-plus years in Afghanistan.
The last troops left Iraq in December 2011, with a cumulative death toll of nearly 4,500 and more than 30,000 wounded. In Afghanistan, a little more than 2,000 have died, and 18,000 have been wounded.
Harder to calculate is the psychological toll on troops and their families, underscored by a rising number of military suicides — which last year reached a post-2001 high.
“The reality is that while combat operations may wind down, the impact of these wars and the high state of readiness the military must maintain, means that the need for ... services and bereavement support will continue for military families,” said Ami Neiberger-Miller, spokeswoman for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, a private support group.
By the end of next year, all American combat troops will have left Afghanistan, although President Obama may keep a few thousand there to continue training Afghan forces and to press the hunt for terrorists.
Obama is expected to make a decision, in consultation with allies, soon.
The United States now has 66,000 troops in Afghanistan.
Afghans are taking heavier casualties as their allies prepare to leave.
More than 1,200 Afghan soldiers died last year, compared with more than 550 in 2011, according to data compiled by the Washington-based Brookings Institution. The Pentagon says the United States lost 313 troops last year, down from 414 in 2011.
Deaths from Afghan soldiers turning their weapons on American troops — known as insider attacks — have declined in recent months — reflecting the move away from partnering with Afghans in combat operations, as well as firmer security measures intended to prevent such attacks.
The pace of combat tends to slacken during the harsh winter months, when terrorists slip away to rest and rearm, but the recent decline in U.S. casualties is exceptional.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Deadly crash into train station prompts crackdown in Jerusalem
- U.S. airstrikes beat back Islamic State’s push for Mosul dam
- Gunman in Ottawa attack had been waiting for passport to go to Syria
- ISIS claims it grabs U.S. military ware
- Canadians more fearful, aware after ‘very rare’ attack in Ottawa
- Iran considers compromise offer on nuclear program
- American baby killed, 8 hurt as car plows into crowd at Jerusalem train station
- Saudis tell women: Don’t defy and drive
- Teen girls found no roadblock to flights
- UN: We botched response to the Ebola outbreak
- Iraq gives key posts to Sunni, Shiite men