Tuesday, July 1, 2008
KABUL, Afghanistan – Militants killed more U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan than in Iraq last month, as they did in May.
The grim milestone capped a run of headline-grabbing insurgent attacks that analysts say underscore the Taliban’s growing strength. The extremist militia in June staged a sophisticated jailbreak that freed 886 prisoners, then briefly infiltrated a strategic valley outside the city of Kandahar.
Last week, a Pentagon report forecast that the Taliban would maintain or increase its pace of attacks, which is already up 40 percent this year from 2007 in the area along the Pakistan border where U.S. troops operate.
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Last month also saw the international community meet in Paris to pledge $21 billion in aid to Afghanistan, but Barnett Rubin, an expert on that country at New York University, warns that there is still no strategy to turn that commitment into success.
While the two-month casualty trend is in part due to falling violence in Iraq, it also reflects rising violence in Afghanistan.
At least 45 international soldiers – including 27 Americans and 13 Britons – died in Afghanistan last month, the deadliest month since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion to oust the Taliban, according to an AP count.
In Iraq, at least 31 international soldiers died in June: 29 Americans and one each from the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Azerbaijan. There are 144,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and 4,000 British forces, along with small contingents from other nations.