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Foreign troop deaths in Afghanistan near 600 for 2010
"Total foreign military deaths in Afghanistan in 2010 neared 600 with the death of another service member on Sunday, an unwelcome figure that will likely weigh heavily on Western leaders amid declining support for the war
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said on Sunday one of its service members was killed by a homemade bomb in the south of country, bringing the total to 599 since the beginning of 2010.
No other details of the incident were available. Crude but effective homemade bombs account for well over half of the casualties suffered by foreign troops in Afghanistan this year.
With more than two months to go, 2010 is already the bloodiest for Afghan and foreign troops and civilians since the overthrow of the Taliban in late 2001. In all of 2009, a total of 521 foreign troops were killed.
The rising casualties offer little encouragement for U.S. President Barack Obama, who has promised a strategy review in December after mid-term elections a month earlier in which his Democrats face a backlash from an increasingly skeptical public.
Afghanistan will also be a major topic of discussion at a NATO summit in Lisbon next month, with European NATO members under pressure at home to justify their continued commitment.
Disputes over the Afghan war have already brought down a Dutch government in February and a German president in May and, facing growing public doubts about the war at home, U.S. leaders have sought to lower expectations of what can be achieved.
The Netherlands formally ended its mission in August following strong public opposition to the war and earlier this month, days after four of its soldier were killed in an ambush Italy said it could begin pulling out troops from next summer.
NATO member Canada, which has suffered the third highest losses behind the United States and Britain, has announced it is ending its combat mission next year.
According to www.icasualties.org, an independent website that monitors foreign troop deaths, 2,169 troops have died since 2001, more than half of those in the past two years alone.
The United States has suffered by far the most casualties, with at least 1,348 deaths. British losses total at least 341, with the remaining 480 shared among the other 44 ISAF partners"
An Afghan Taliban commander feels NATO's heat, but it could backfire
"The Western alliance's effort to find a way out of the deadlocked conflict in Afghanistan centers on a two-track approach: seeking to devastate the Taliban field-command structure while trying to woo the movement's leaders to the bargaining table. But some analysts, officials, diplomats and other observers say this strategy could backfire, perhaps even providing the insurgency with fresh impetus, stronger motivation and more recruits.
They point out that the loose and decentralized nature of the insurgency means that many of those on the battlefield have no real pipeline to the upper echelon. And it is not at all clear that the Taliban fighters on the ground feel it's time to make a deal.
Commander H., for example, insists that his troops are ready to continue the battle, and says that he himself could be readily replaced if he were killed or captured.
He succeeded an older cousin who was killed last year, and said avenging that death and other killings and destruction of property guides his belief that the fight must go on until all foreign troops have left Afghan soil.
NATO's International Security Assistance Force routinely reports the capture or death of several Taliban "leaders" a day, wording that suggests they are senior figures, with a role in shaping the movement's overall aims. But Commander H., answering questions through an intermediary, described his role in the fighting in almost workaday terms.
He and others like him, he said, are men who organize the planting of roadside bombs, the Taliban's signature weapon. They move arms from one place to another; they keep Western troops in their district under close surveillance; they stage occasional ambushes, often merely to give the impression that their own numbers are greater than they actually are.
Western officials contend that the high-tempo campaign of targeted strikes on operatives such as Commander H. is sowing doubt and disarray in the ranks of the Taliban. And that, they believe, is key to "softening up" the insurgency, making its leaders more receptive to peace overtures.
More explicitly than at any point in the 9-year-old war, senior U.S. and other Western officials are describing a negotiated settlement with the Taliban as not only necessary but perhaps inevitable. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, has disclosed that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization force had gone so far as to ensure safe passage for high-level Taliban figures to informal meetings between them and associates of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
But the Afghan government's much-touted effort to lure insurgents from the battlefield with financial and other incentives has largely foundered, despite Western encouragement and cash commitments. When asked about the government "reconciliation" program, Commander H. laughed.
He also suggested that he and fellow fighters, facing heavy pressure from the large-scale Western offensive in Kandahar province, would fall back on a favored tactic: melting away in the face of superior force, then reinfiltrating when it suited them.
"We have long experience in this," he said. "We can change our location, we can come and go, we can leave behind land mines that will kill them. Yes, they are many, but with only a few, we can make great problems for them"
Taliban leaders believe they have made significant gains, both in territorial terms and their ability to bloody the NATO force. They point with satisfaction to Western combat deaths, which are running at their highest levels since the start of the war, and the fact that they have been able to push into more parts of the country during the last two years, even as the Western force was doubling in size.
Observers also point out that one of the Taliban movement's hallmarks is its ability to regenerate itself. It bounced back, after all, from the devastating blow of the U.S.-led invasion, steadily gaining strength over the last several years.
"In 2006, officials were estimating that the Taliban were as low as a few thousand strong, and today [the NATO force] estimates the Taliban as 35,000 to 40,000," said Matthew Waldman, an analyst who recently wrote a report on the prospect of negotiations. "One of the points we have to bear in mind is they have a very large pool of recruits inside Afghanistan and Pakistan."
"Two Afghan policemen were injured Saturday in what was the most serious attack on a UN facility"
Since the Oct. 2009 attack on a Kabul guesthouse that killed several employees and prompted the mission to evacuate many workers, according to the Washington Post. But the UN says no staff were hurt after four militants launched rocket-propelled grenades, crashed a car bomb into the UN complex’s gate, and attempted to detonate suicide vests hidden under burqas. A smaller weekend staff was in the compound at the time.
Taliban spokesman Yousuf Ahmadi, speaking to the Agence France-Press, took credit for for the attack. Earlier this year, AFP reminds us, the Taliban announced that all foreigners, including diplomats and aid workers and the Afghans who work for them, were considered viable targets in their battle against the Western-backed government in Kabul."
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