For the second year in a row, there has been a significant decline in U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan -- 301 troops killed this year, compared to 413 in 2011, and 500 in 2010.
The 25 percent decline in U.S. military deaths reflects the reduction in America’s presence on the ground in Afghanistan, having dropped from more than 100,000 military personnel during the surge in 2010 to approximately 68,000 today, according to the Defense Department figures as of Sunday.
The drawdown will continue as the U.S. nears its 2014 scheduled withdrawal, putting greater responsibility on Afghan security forces to secure their own country. Presently there are an estimated 350,000 active Afghan security forces. Though coalition forces remain in combat zones, the Afghan military is playing a larger role, according to U.S. military officials.
It is not clear how many U.S. troops will remain after 2014, though some military analysts put the number between 10,000 and 15,000.
Many fear if too many U.S. troops remain, the Afghans will continue to rely on U.S. support for their own protection, while if too few American personnel stay those that remain might be dependent on Afghan forces for their own protection.
The concern over the capabilities and loyalties of the Afghan forces is demonstrated by the numerous “insider attacks” in recent years, in which Afghan forces have turned on their American or European counterparts. Between 2011 and 2012, approximately 16 percent of coalition casualties were a result of insider attacks.
For their part, Afghanistan officials have expressed their desire for a continued coalition presence after 2014.
“The Afghans are a lot more pragmatic . . . They know both security and economic stability depends on an international presence,” according to Said Jawad, a former Afghanistan ambassador to the United States.
To date, 2,156 Americans have died in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), which was launched on Oct. 7, 2001, in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack.
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