Kabul: The death toll for foreign soldiers
in Afghanistan neared the grim milestone of 100 for June alone
as the CIA chief warned the anti-Taliban war would be tougher
and longer than expected.
Britain`s Ministry of Defence said a soldier had been
killed in the southern province of Helmand on Sunday, taking
the June toll as tallied by AFP to 99, already the worst
monthly total in nearly nine years of fighting.
The British death came after four Norwegian soldiers died
when their vehicle was hit by a bomb in the northern province
of Faryab on Sunday.
Norwegian Defence Minister Grete Faremo said she would
travel to Afghanistan to bring home the bodies.
The toll for the year to date is 319, compared to 520 for
all of 2009.
NATO says the dramatic upswing in casualty numbers in
June has been caused by its stepping up military operations
and taking the fight to the Taliban in areas where the
Islamist militia has previously been unchallenged.
It comes as questions mount in the US and Europe about
military strategy in Afghanistan following last week`s sacking
of the top NATO commander, US General Stanley McChrystal.
Carl Levin, chairman of the US Senate Armed Services
Committee and a key Democrat, told reporters that backing
among American voters for the war effort would depend on
looming operations in Kandahar, a Taliban stronghold.
"I would say in September and October, when we expect an
acceleration of operations in Kandahar, will have a major
effect on it," Levin said.
Eight civilians including women and children were also
killed yesterday when a Taliban-style bomb ripped through a
mini-van in the central province of Ghazni, police said.
NATO said meanwhile it had killed several rebels in a
pre-dawn raid near the troubled southern city of Kandahar, but
villagers said the dead were all civilians.
Police said they were investigating claims that the dead
were local men who had been sleeping on roofs to escape the
The issue of civilian casualties is incendiary among
Afghans, who blame them on foreign troops despite a UN report
this year that showed that most civilian deaths are caused by
McChrystal won plaudits in Afghanistan for introducing
battlefield measures aimed at reducing civilian casualties,
principally with an approach known as "courageous restraint"
which encourages soldiers to hold fire until they are sure
their targets are bona fide insurgents.
The policy has been criticised among the ranks, where it
is blamed for the rising number of deaths and injuries
suffered by NATO troops.