Eight U.S. troops died Tuesday in twin insurgent attacks in southern Afghanistan, making October the deadliest month for Americans in Afghanistan since the war started in 2001.
U.S. forces spokesman Lt. Col. Todd Vician told The Associated Press that seven Americans and an Afghan civilian died while patrolling in armored vehicles. He said the eighth American died in a separate attack, also while on patrol in a military vehicle.
Capt. Adam Weece, a spokesman for American forces in the south, said both attacks occurred in Kandahar province. In Washington, a U.S. defense official told the AP that the deaths occurred in bombings and that one of them was followed by an intense firefight with insurgents who attacked after an initial bomb exploded.
The deaths Tuesday brought the toll of U.S. troops killed in October to 55. The deadliest previous month in the history of the 8-year war was in August when 51 troops died. Since the U.S. began military operations in Afghanistan, 833 U.S. troops have died from fighting in the country, according to the Web site iCasualties.org.
On Monday, 11 U.S. troops and three agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration died in helicopter crashes.
The deadly toll comes as the White House debates the merits of sending more troops to Afghanistan — a decision that may be effected by negative domestic reaction to the mounting numbers of war dead.
White House deliberations — which continued Monday in a sixth high-level strategy session in the past month — have also been affected by the political fallout of Aug. 20 Afghan elections, in which international monitors reported that supporters of Afghan President Hamid Karzai fabricated as many as a third of the votes he received.
Abdullah Abdullah, Mr. Karzai’s main rival, told reporters in Kabul on Monday that he would not accept a runoff until officials implicated in fraud in the first round had been fired and several ministers who campaigned for Mr. Karzai were suspended.
Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, who helped convince Mr. Karzai to accept a runoff election scheduled for Nov. 7, said Monday, “I am convinced President Karzai understands the need to make some changes” in his government to justify continued U.S. military and civilian involvement.”
Mr. Kerry told the Council on Foreign Relations that Mr. Karzai himself had raised stories about alleged links to drug trafficking by one of the Afghan leader’s brothers and was aware of widespread complaints about corruption and inefficiency in some ministries and provincial governments.
Mr. Kerry said Mr. Karzai would not announce changes before the runoff to avoid antagonizing potential supporters.
Mr. Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said President Obama was “right” to take time to review strategy toward Afghanistan. While “there are no great options,” Mr. Kerry said, it was possible to stabilize the country and prevent it from becoming a haven again for al Qaeda if the U.S. can speed up training of Afghan forces, increase U.S. civilian involvement and make sure there are adequate local leaders to partner with U.S. and other foreign forces.
Without specifying how much of a surge he thought would be appropriate, Mr. Kerry suggested that sending large additional numbers of U.S. troops to Afghanistan was not the answer.
“It’s not how many troops,” Mr. Kerry said. “It’s what they do.”View Entire Story
Barbara Slavin is assistant managing editor for World and National Security at The Washington Times and the author of a 2007 book on Iran, titled “Bitter Friends, Bosom Enemies: Iran, the U.S. and the Twisted Path to Confrontation.” Before joining The Times in July 2008, she was senior diplomatic reporter for USA Today. She has accompanied three secretaries of state ...
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