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For US, '08 deadliest year in Afghanistan

By Jason Straziuso
Associated Press / January 1, 2009
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KABUL, Afghanistan - A record 151 American forces died in Afghanistan in 2008, compared with 111 the previous year. It was the deadliest year yet in a seven-year war that military officials say is likely to get even bloodier this year, as thousands more American troops pour into the country.

In Iraq, by contrast, US military deaths in Iraq plunged by two-thirds in 2008 from the previous year after the military's successful counterinsurgency campaign and Al Qaeda's slow retreat. At least 314 US soldiers died in Iraq in 2008, down from 904 in the previous year, according to an Associated Press tally.

At least 625 US soldiers have died because of the war in Afghanistan since the fighting began in 2001, an AP tally showed. At least 4,221 US soldiers have died in Iraq since that war began in 2003.

In Afghanistan, the number of roadside bombs doubled from the year before to roughly 2,000, with many of the devices more powerful than in previous years.

Unlike in 2007, when militants carried out ambushes only in small numbers, insurgents over the last year amassed in groups of hundreds on multiple occasions. About 200 militants nearly overran a small US outpost in eastern Afghanistan in July, launching an early morning attack that killed nine American troops.

US forces suffered an average of 21 deaths in Afghanistan each month last year from May to October - by far the deadliest six-month period in Afghanistan for American soldiers since the 2001 invasion to oust the Taliban.

The United States now has some 32,000 forces in the country - record levels - and officials say those troops have moved into new territory and rousted militants in those regions.

But militants gained new ground in the south - even on the doorstep of Kabul - and Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced on a recent trip to Kabul that Afghanistan could see up to 30,000 new forces in 2009.

Colonel Jerry O'Hara, a US military spokesman, said Afghanistan is a "work in progress."

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