(CNSNews.com) – The 81 combat-related U.S. military casualties in Afghanistan that occurred during the first quarter of this year more than doubled from the 38 U.S. casualties in Afghanistan during the same period in 2009, which was the deadliest year of the eight-year-long war in that country.
So far this year (Jan. 1 – Mar. 31), have been 84 U.S. casualties in Afghanistan, 81 of which were combat-related. In the same period of 2009, there were 42 U.S. military casualties, 38 of which were combat-related. See chart.
The combat-related casualties more than doubled each month during the first quarter of 2010 when compared to the U.S. military death toll during the same period last year.
Last year was the deadliest for the U.S. military since the war started in 2001. In 2009, there were approximately 273 combat-related deaths out of total of an estimated 303, according to CNSNews.com’s casualty database. (One of those deaths was not reported until late January 2010.)
On Feb. 19, CNSNews.com reported that the deaths for 2010 that had been reported up to that point had already doubled those from the same period in 2009.
CNSNews.com maintains a database of the U.S. casualties from the Afghanistan war that accounts for all U.S. military soldiers who died or received a fatal wound in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It excludes U.S. soldiers who died outside of Afghanistan and Pakistan while supporting efforts against terrorism under Operation Enduring Freedom.
The death count is derived from U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) press releases. CNSNews.com documents the tally in a database that also uses reports from the news media to detail the circumstances of the fatalities.
According to CNSNews.com’s tabulation, for the 945 total reported deaths for the war to date, 798 deaths were combat-related. This includes soldiers who died due to drowning or crashing their vehicles while supporting military efforts.
The CNSNews.com total death figure (945) is two more than the Defense Department tally, which was updated on Mar. 30 at 10 a.m.
According to the DOD, out of their tally of 943 total deaths, 738 soldiers were killed as a result of hostile action.
More than one-third of all U.S. casualties in the eight-year war in Afghanistan have occurred since the first major wave of troops ordered by President Barack Obama arrived in that country on May 15, 2009.
Following Obama’s strategy for the conflict, on Feb. 13 the U.S. military engaged in its biggest operation in Afghanistan since the start of war. The operation was dubbed Mushtarak, which means “together” in Dari.
The effort was the first military offensive since Obama ordered the deployment of 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan back in December 2009. Operation Mushtarak was focused on stabilizing the Marjah City in Helmand province, a known Taliban sanctuary. The city is home to about 80,000 inhabitants.
By Mar. 13, an Associated Press article indicated that Taliban insurgents in Marjah had been “largely defeated.” The U.S. military in Marjah is currently trying to prevent the Taliban from returning and re-gaining the apparent trust of the Afghan population there.
Sporadic military confrontations between the U.S. military and Afghan insurgents are still taking place. Since the Marjah offensive started, 24 U.S. soldiers have died from battles in Helmand province where the city of Marjah is located, according to CNSNews.com’s casualty database.
The next major U.S. military offensive is expected to take place in Kandahar province, the birth place of the Taliban, where more intense insurgent resistance is expected, which could result in more casualties than those that resulted from the Marjah offensive.
U.S. military officials have indicated that the Kandahar offensive, expected to last two months, may start by June. The goal is to remove the Taliban before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins in August, while focusing on the city of Kandahar, which is the capital of the Kandahar province.
As with the Marjah offensive, the U.S. military intentions in Kandahar are to clear Taliban strongholds while protecting the local inhabitants and establishing legitimate Afghan control.
However, unlike the Marjah military effort, which depended on a large military operation, in Kandahar there will not be an initial surge of military force, but rather a rollout of a series of operations, according to U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the number one commander in Afghanistan.
At a press briefing on Tuesday, Geoff Morrell, a Pentagon spokesman, did not provide a timeframe for the Kandahar offensive.
However, he indicated that efforts to remove the Taliban from Kandahar were already underway.
According to CNSNews.com’s count, more U.S. soldiers have died in the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand than in any other Afghan province. Both of those provinces are located along the Afghan border.
Roadside bombs known as Improvised Explosive Devices [IEDs] have been the number one killer of U.S. troops throughout the nearly nine-year war in Afghanistan.