(CNSNews.com) – As of July 31, almost half of all U.S. fatalities in Afghanistan have happened on President Barack Obama’s watch. Since Obama took office in January 2009, 558 U.S. troops have died in Afghanistan, out of 1,127 since the war began nine years ago, according to CNSNews.com’s tally.
And the violence is escalating. July 2010 was the deadliest month for U.S forces in Afghanistan, with 66 combat and non-combat fatalities.
Counting for both combat and non-combat deaths, the top three bloodiest months for U.S. forces all happened during Obama’s term: July 2010 (66 dead), June 2010 (60 dead), and October 2009 (58 dead).
For the 558 U.S. soldiers who have died so far on Obama’s watch, 513 (about 92 percent) were killed in combat. Those 513 combat-related deaths on Obama’s watch account for more than half of the 963 combat deaths that have taken place since the war began in October 2001.
As a presidential candidate, Obama vowed to shift the focus of U.S. military operations in the Middle East from Iraq to Afghanistan. Last year, as president, he ordered an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, angering the anti-war wing of his own party.
At least 515 (about 46 percent) of all combat and non-combat U.S. fatalities have taken place since May 15, 2009, the day when the first wave of Obama’s troop surge reached Afghanistan.
Homemade bombs, known as improvised explosive devices (IEDs), continue to be the number one killer of U.S. forces.
Of the record 66 U.S. fatalities in July 2010, at least 39 (around 60 percent) were caused by IEDs. That number could be higher, considering that the Defense Department does not always report the full circumstances surrounding a soldier’s death, sometimes saying only that a soldier died “while supporting combat operations.”
With five months left until the end of 2010, a total of 266 U.S. fatalities in Afghanistan have been reported since Jan. 1 through July 31. That’s 88 percent of the 303 fatalities that took place in 2009, the bloodiest year of the Afghan war.
The 266 combat and non-combat deaths as of July 31 account for almost twice as much (48 percent) of the 127 deaths during the same period (January – July) last year.
Helmand and Kandahar provinces, both Taliban strongholds located along the Pakistan border, have been the deadliest for U.S. forces since the start of the war.
In Helmand, U.S.-led forces are now engaged in their largest military operation to date. They are expected to move into Kandahar next.
The president's current strategy, established on Dec. 2, 2009, includes the beginning of a drawdown from Afghanistan approximately one year from now in July 2011.
According to Gen. David Petraeus, top commander of U.S.-led NATO forces in Afghanistan, that plan was not proposed by military officials. (See Earlier Story)
On July 28, CNSNews.com reported that during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Richard Holbrooke, U.S. envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, indicated that progress towards the planned July 2011 troop withdrawal was mixed.
“There is no single answer yet to this extraordinarily complicated situation,” Holbrooke said.
President Obama and members of his administration repeatedly have said that the July 2011 date will mark the beginning of a responsible transition of tasks to the Afghans that will depend largely on ground conditions.
The success of the U.S. counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan depends on a shift of control to the Afghan National Security Forces, as well as a stable, functioning Afghan government.
On July 12, CNSNews.com reported that with a literacy rate of only 14 percent among ANSF recruits, the biggest hurdle for the U.S.-led training mission in Afghanistan is teaching members of the ANSF how to read and write.
CNSNews.com’s U.S. military death count is derived primarily from U.S. Defense Department casualty reports, but it also includes information gleaned from the news media reports.
The count includes all U.S. military personnel who died or received fatal wounds in Afghanistan or Pakistan. It does not include U.S. soldiers who died outside of those two countries while supporting military efforts against terrorism under Operation Enduring Freedom, which includes multiple countries.
CNSNews.com’s overall U.S. military fatality count for the war in Afghanistan at 1,127 is 18 more than the DOD’s 1,109 tally for “in Afghanistan only” deaths, which was last updated Aug. 4, and one less than the Associated Press count as of the end of last month.