(CNSNews.com) - The 38 combat-related U.S. military casualties from the war in Afghanistan that have been reported so far this year as America sets in motion its largest anti-Taliban operation have almost doubled the 21 fatalities from the same period in 2009, the bloodiest year for U.S. armed forces.
As of the time this report was submitted, the Department of Defense (DOD) had reported 41 U.S. soldier fatalities, with 38 killed during combat operations. During the same time last year, there were an overall 22 casualties including 21 that took place while supporting combat activity.
This year, more U.S. soldiers have died from battles in Helmand province, known as a heavy poppy producing region and Taliban stronghold, than in any other region in Afghanistan. There have been 17 reported U.S. casualties for 2010 from fighting in Helmand.
The 17 fatalities account for almost half or about 45 percent of the 38 combat-related deaths so far this year. By this time in 2009, there were only five reported soldier deaths in Helmand.
There is a major difference regarding U.S. military activity in Helmand province right now from the same period in 2009. On Feb. 12, the U.S. launched its biggest anti-Taliban operation in Helmand, a known sanctuary for Taliban terrorists.
It is focused on the city of Marjah located in Helmand that is home to about 80,000 inhabitants.
This is the first offensive since Obama ordered the deployment of 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan back in December 2009.
The operation known as Mushtarak which means "together" in Dari is comprised of 15,000 U.S.-led NATO and Afghan soldiers, with Afghan soldiers making up at least half of the offensive force.
Only three U.S. military casualties from fighting in Helmand have been reported so far since the operation began. It is uncertain whether the deaths are directly linked to the Helmand offensive.
Most of the deaths so far this year, 19, have been caused by Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) also known as roadside bombs. That number could be higher given that the DOD does not always report the explicit circumstances surrounding the death of soldiers in Afghanistan.
Of the 37 combat-related deaths that have been reported for 2010, 10 were listed as being a result of “supporting combat operations,” and three were listed as being caused by injuries, all of which were reported without any further information surrounding the circumstances of death. The remaining casualties were either caused by small arms fire or suicide bombers.
In 2009, about 20 percent of U.S. combat-related casualties in 2009 in Afghanistan – 57 of the 278 total deaths – were a result of operations in Helmand. In comparison, there were only 17 operation-related deaths from battles in Helmand.
Approximately 32 of the 57, or more than 50 percent, of U.S. combat-linked fatalities incurred from fighting in Helmand were reportedly caused by IEDs.
CNSNews.com’s figures for Afghanistan are derived from DOD reports along with published media accounts.
The data compiled by CNSNews.com does not account for American troops who died outside of Afghanistan while supporting military efforts against terrorism under Operation Enduring Freedom, which involves multiple countries, except for those who died in Pakistan.
The numbers may also vary from other estimates given that the military branches differ, with some branches not always reporting the full scope of the circumstances, such as weapon used and place of death.