(CNSNews.com) -- President Barack Obama said U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan will adopt a “support role” starting in the spring of 2013, to allow Afghan police and soldiers to take full responsibility of the country’s security, a nation where 2,053 American soldiers have died since the war started on Oct. 7, 2001.
Seventy-two percent of those casualties occurred during Obama's first term.
“And today we agreed, as Afghan forces take the lead and as President Karzai announces the final phase of the transition, coalition forces will move to a support role this spring,” Obama said Friday at the White House, alongside Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
“Our troops will continue to fight alongside Afghans when needed but let me say it as plainly as I can: Starting this spring, our troops will have a different mission. Training, advising, assisting Afghan forces,” he said.
Obama added that there will still be a U.S. presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014, but the mission of U.S. and coalition troops will begin to shift by the spring of this year.
Last year, 296 U.S. soldiers of all military branches gave their lives in Afghanistan, bringing the total number of fallen soldiers in Afghanistan to 2,053, according to CNSNews.com’s war casualties database. (That is the total as of Jan. 11, 2013, when this story was posted. So far, the Department of Defense has reported no new casualties in 2013.)
For the total 2,053 fallen troops in Afghanistan since the United States began military operations in October 2001, 1,484 have died during the Obama administration, meaning approximately 72 percent of U.S. casualties in Afghanistan have occurred during President Obama’s first term.
CNSNews.com reported in August that the three deadliest years of the Afghan war for U.S. military personnel occurred under Obama: in 2010, 497 fatalities, followed by 2011 with 399 fatalities, and 2009 with 303 fatalities.
The 40 casualties each in May and July 2012 made them the two deadliest months for U.S. troops in Afghanistan this year. Typically, the summer months from June to September have produced high casualty counts due to heavier fighting.
The vast majority of soldier deaths that occur in Afghanistan are combat-related. Examples of non-combat related deaths include illness and accidents.
Leading causes of soldier combat deaths included but were not limited to Improvised Explosive Devices (IED), enemy fire, and suicide bombers.
There were also instances of insider attacks, formerly known as green-on-blue attacks, which occur when individuals in Afghan uniforms open fire on International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) soldiers.
The number of fallen soldiers in Afghanistan alone reached 2,000 in September of this year. American military deaths under the overall Operation Enduring Freedom surpassed 2,000 back in June.
(Operation Enduring Freedom’s main battlefield is in Afghanistan but it includes smaller military operations in the Philippines, the Horn of Africa, Caribbean, and Trans Sahara, as well as support operations on the high seas from aircraft carriers and other U.S. vessels.)
On Sept. 21, 2012, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta declared an end to the 33,000 U.S. troop surge first announced by President Obama in December 2009. During October, November and December 2012, there were 15, 16 and 9 American casualties, respectively.
"The surge did accomplish it objectives of reversing the Taliban momentum on the battlefield and dramatically increasing the size and capability of the Afghan national security forces," Panetta said on Sept. 21.
The Obama administration has said it endorses a plan to remove all American combat troops by the end of 2014, when the Afghan National Security Force (ANSF) is expected to take full responsibility of security operations in the country.
“We'll be drawing down our forces. Obviously, the Afghan army will assume full responsibility for the security of the country,” Leon Panetta said while visiting Kabul on Dec. 12.
“But we will be there to provide support, to provide training, to provide assistance, to provide help on counterterrorism, and to provide support for the forces that are here. So we will be maintaining an enduring presence here,” he said.
The CNSNews.com database of U.S. casualties in Afghanistan is based on official Department of Defense casualty announcements, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) information, and media accounts.
With the exception of four soldiers who died on ships supporting missions in Afghanistan and 12 who died in Pakistan, the database does not include soldiers supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in other areas of the world.