Combat-Related U.S. Military Deaths in Afghanistan Double Over Last Year, IEDs Major Cause

December 31, 2009 - 1:33 PM
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Afghanistan, U.S. troops

U.S. soldiers on patrol in Afghanistan. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – There were 272 combat-related deaths of U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan in 2009, as this story went to press on Dec. 31. That number is more than double the 135 combat-related deaths in 2008. The majority of the combat-related deaths in 2009 were caused by roadside bombs, known as an improvised explosive device (IED).
 
CNSNews.com’s casualty data were compiled from reports by the Department of Defense (DOD), in addition to details of the circumstances of each death from various media sources.
 
The data reveal that the overall number of U.S. soldiers who died in Afghanistan nearly doubled from 152 in 2008 to 302 this year, based on information available as of Dec. 31. (This includes combat- and non-combat related fatalities.)
 
U.S. troops who died outside of Afghanistan while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom, which includes anti-terrorism efforts in Afghanistan and other countries, are not included in CNSNews.com’s numbers.
 
CNSNews.com found that the number of soldiers who died in 2008 while supporting combat operations or as a result of enemy fire was 135, which increased by about 51 percent to 272 deaths in 2009.
 
The data also show that the number one killer of U.S. military forces is IEDs.
 
In 2009, in the 302 deaths reported so far, about 170 were attributed to roadside explosives. That number increased by more than 50 percent from the approximatly 82 IED-related deaths in 2008.
 
When testifying before Congress last  month, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top-commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan, acknowledged that IEDs are the most prominent cause of death among anti-insurgent soldiers in Afghanistan.
 
He said that “intelligence” of where IEDs are made and where they are set to strike is the best way to combat the deadly explosives – intelligence that U.S. and allied forces are working to better cultivate.  
 
On Nov. 12, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced that he was assembling  a Counter-IED task force in an effort to bring together military services and agencies to halt the use of IEDs against anti-insurgency forces in Afghanistan.
 
The task force’s aim is “to break down the stove pipes” that keep the different anti-explosive factions within the military services and agencies from working together more efficiently. He also suggested that the task force should “get the troops they need.”
 
Overall, 861 U.S. soldiers have perished while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan since the war started in October 2001.
 
On Dec. 27, ABC News online reported that a senior intelligence official with the international military forces in Kabul, who opted to remain anonymous, indicated that “kinetic” actions from the Taliban went up 300 percent since 2007 and 60 percent more since 2008.
 
The official attributed such a spike in “kinetic” activity to the vast increase of insurgents using IEDs.
 
According to the official, 326 incidents involving IEDs took place in 2004. That number skyrocketed to 1,922 in 2006, 4,169 in 2008, and more than 7,200 in 2009.
 
The official was referring to incidents involving all international anti-insurgency forces.
Furthermore, the official also mentioned that the power of IEDs has increased over the years.
 
By December 2009, most IEDs were made using 26 to 50 pounds of homemade explosives, with a substantial number containing in excess of 100 pounds of explosive, according to the official.