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Central & South Asia
June deadliest month of Afghan war
Death of foreign troops tops 100, the highest toll since the US-led invasion in 2001.
Last Modified: 01 Jul 2010 07:56 GMT
David Petraeus, the new US commander for Afghanistan, said fighting there may intensify

June has been the deadliest month for foreign troops in the Afghan war since it began in 2001.

The June death toll of 102, announced on Wednesday, is almost triple the number of US and Nato soldiers killed in May, and the new US commander warned that fighting would get tougher before the situation on the ground could improve.

At a senate hearing on his nomination to replace his sacked predecessor, US General David Petraeus said foreign troops in Afghanistan were fighting an "industrial-strength insurgency".

"My sense is that the tough fighting will continue, indeed, it may get more intense in the next few months," he said on Tuesday.

The latest death, a soldier who died in an attack in eastern Afghanistan, was announced by Nato's International Security Assistance Force [ISAF] on Tuesday.

Just two months ago, in April, the number of foreign soldiers who died in the country was 20, according to the independent icasualties.org website.

Heavy loses

The previous deadliest month the allied forces suffered was August last year, when 77 soldiers were killed.

IN DEPTH

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  Focus: To win over Afghans, US must listen
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  Kandahar's sitting ducks
  Forces 'positive' on Afghan assault
  Afghanistan's influential elders
  Taliban second in command captured

In total, 322 foreign soldiers have died so far this year,  compared with a toll for all 2009 of 520.

Western leaders and military commanders concede the escalating death toll of foreign soldiers, most of them American, is attributable in part to intensified military operations against the Taliban in their southern strongholds.

"It's a tough time we're in," General Josef Blotz, a spokesman for ISAF, said.

"We are in the arena, there's no way out now, we have to stay on, we have to fight this campaign," he said this week.

The US and Nato have 140,000 troops in Afghanistan, but that number is due to peak at 150,000 by August on orders by Barack Obama, the US president, as part of a counter-insurgency strategy to speed up the end of the war.

Earlier this year about 15,000 US, Nato and Afghan troops launched an operation in Marjah, the Taliban controlled region of southern Helmand province, as part of a massive operation aimed at flushing out Taliban fighters in what commanders said was the biggest military push since 2001.

However, fighting continues more than four months later, and an even bigger strike in the neighbouring Taliban heartland of Kandahar province, has been postponed.

Source:
Agencies
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