116 U.S. Troops Died in Afghanistan While Obama Pondered Reinforcements

By Edwin Mora | December 1, 2009 | 1:40 PM EST

Georgia state National Guardsman, Sgt. Scott A. Millican, right, from Statesboro, GA., and Air Force Techincal Sgt. Phllip M. Huaser from Salina, Kansas, both part of the Counter-Improvised Explosive Device (CIED) route clearance unit look up as US fighter jets fly overhead near the town of Maidan Shar, Wardak province, Afghanistan Monday Nov. 30, 2009. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)

(Editor's Note: The Defense Department clarified after this story was posted that one of the casualties during October was a civilian, putting the number of U.S. military casualties between Aug. 30 and Dec. 1 at 116, instead of the 117 as first reported. The text below reflects this correction.)

- One hundred and sixteen U.S. troops died in Afghanistan between August 30, when Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. commander in that country, first reported that reinforcements were needed, and Tuesday, when President Barack Obama was set to announce that he will send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan.

There were 58 U.S. casualties in Afghanistan in October alone, making that the deadliest month of the eight-year-long U.S. war. There were also 37 U.S. casualties in Afghanistan in September, making September the third deadliest month of the war. In November, the U.S. casualties in Afghanistan dropped to 17.

On Aug. 30, Gen. McChrystal submitted a 66-page assessment of the war in Afghanistan to Defense Secretary Robert Gates. The assessment said that without additional resources the war would “likely result in failure.”

“However, without a new strategy, the mission should not be resourced,” wrote Gen. McChrystal.

“Failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near-term (next 12 months)--while Afghan security capacity matures--risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible," the general wrote.
President Obama sent McChrystal to Afghanistan to be the top U.S. commander there in June after Defense Secretary Robert Gates had fired the previous commander, Gen. David McKiernan, in May.
President Obama is scheduled to announce that he is sending additional forces to Afghanistan and to reveal a new war strategy in a primetime address to be delivered today from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

The period since Gen. McChrystal submitted his assessment that additional troops were needed has included the second deadliest thee-month period of the war. In September through November, there were 112 U.S. casualties in Afghanistan (including 37 in September, 58 in October and 17 in November). Together with 4 casualties that occurred on August 31, these account for the 116 total U.S. casualties that have occurred in Afghanistan since the general’s assessment.

The deadliest three-month period of the war was June through August of this year, when there were 119 U.S. casualties. These included 24 in June, 44 in July, and 51 in August.  

So far this year, there have been 291 U.S. casualties in Afghanistan, making 2009 the deadliest year of the war. Prior to this year, the deadliest single month of the war in Afghanistan was June 2008, when 28 U.S. troops were killed.

The casualty information reported here comes from a CNSNews.com data base of all U.S. casualties in Operation Enduring Freedom. The casualty numbers are based on U.S. Defense Department casualty reports. The database also includes additional information about the circumstances of U.S. casualties in Afghanistan that is derived from public information released by the U.S. Defense Department and also from published news reports.

The casualty numbers reported here include only those that took place within Afghanistan itself and exclude casualties involving troops supporting Operation Enduring Freedom outside of Afghanistan. 

Operation Enduring Freedom is comprised of the operations in Afghanistan along with other anti-terrorists actions in other countries as well as training assistance to foreign militaries that are fighting terrorism. 

In June 2007, at a presidential debate in New Hampshire, then-candidate Obama pledge to focus on what he called “the critical battle that we have in Afghanistan.”

“One of the things that I think is critical, as the next president, is to make absolutely certain that we not only phase out the Iraq war, but we also focus on the critical battle that we have in Afghanistan and root out al Qaeda,” he said. 

Obama said at the time that the war in Iraq “is an enormous distraction from the battle that does have to be waged in Afghanistan.”