(CNSNews.com) -- 137 U.S. troops have died in Afghanistan since the first of the year, making the first five months of 2010 the deadliest January-through-May period of any year of the almost nine-year-long war.
The 137 casualties so far this year more than double the 59 that occurred last year from January through May. Thus far, 2009 has been the deadliest year of the war, but the high current casualty count for this year, and the heavy fighting anticipated in Kandahar this summer, put 2010 on track to be even deadlier.
As of May 28, 998 U.S. military personnel had died since the beginning of the war in late 2001, according to CNSNews.com’s database of casualties. 847 of those deaths have been combat-related.
Thirty-nine percent (386) of the 998 casualties have taken place since May 15, 2009, the day when the first major wave of new troops ordered by President Barack Obama arrived in Afghanistan.
Combat-related casualties are those that result from wounds caused by enemy action. Non-combat-related casualties are deaths to military personnel deployed in the Afghanistan war that are the result of accidents or illnesses. Fatal accidents in the war have have included, for example, drownings and vehicle and aircraft accidents.
CNSNews.com’s database of Afghanistan war casualites is derived primarily from official Department of Defense reports but also includes information from news reports.
The CNSNews.com Afghanistan casualty database does not include U.S. troops who died outside of Afghanistan while supporting military efforts against terrorism under Operation Enduring Freedom, which involves multiple countries. It does, however, include troops who have died in Pakistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
CNSNews.com Afghanistan casualty database does include one casualty that took place aboard a Navy vessel in the Persian Gulf that was supporting an operation in Afghanistan. Of the 998 military personnel in the database, only 13 were reported by the Defense Department as dying in Pakistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), homemade bombs, have been the number one killer of U.S. troops. 409 of the 847 combat-related deaths in Afghanistan have been caused by insurgent IEDs. That number could be larger given that the military branches differ in their casualty reporting practices, with some branches not always reporting the full scope of the circumstances of a casualty, such as the weapon used and place of death.
Other weapons often used by insurgents to kill U.S. forces include small arms and rocket-propelled grenades.
Of the 137 U.S. military fatalities in Afghanistan since the beginning of 2010, 130 have been combat-related. Among these deaths, almost half (59), have been caused by IEDs.
The warm-weather months of June to September have tended to be the deadliest for U.S. forces serving in Afghanistan. In 2009, U.S. casualties in Afghanistan peaked in August.
Over the course of the war, more U.S. soldiers have died in Helmand province (162 deaths) than in any other area, with Kandahar province (134 deaths) trailing right behind. Both Helmand and Kandahar are located along Afghanistan's border with Pakistan.
The United States, this past February, launched an operation into Helmand that is still ongoing. Helmand is a heavy poppy-producing region and stronghold of the insurgents.
In Kandahar, U.S.-led NATO forces are preparing to launch the biggest operation in the nine year war. Kandahar, birth-place of the Taliban, is also a stronghold of the insurgents.
On May 22, the Taliban launched a ground attack on Kandahar air field, one of NATO’s largest bases in Afghanistan.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his family are from Kandahar. His brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, has political clout there.
In regards to the U.S. military operation into Kandahar, 2009 Afghan presidential candidate Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, after a May 24 news conference at the National Press Club, told CNSNews.com that the battle there will be a “critical test” for American soldiers.
“Things with the Taliban started in Kandahar and today Kandahar is the embodiment of all the problems, so that’s a critical test,” said Abdullah. He expressed his view that the Kandahar operation is a make-it-or-break it event, saying, “The successful experience could be repeated or we can’t do it.”
On Dec. 1, President Obama announced he was deploying 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan. However, he has repeatedly stated that U.S. troops will begin withdrawing from Afghanistan in July 2011.
CNSNews.com’s combat and non-combat U.S. military casualty tally (998) is two more than the Defense Department's count of 996 U.S. casualties “in and around Afghanistan," which was last updated on May 27.