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566 coalition troops die in Afghan war in 2011
by Staff Writers
Kabul (AFP) Dec 31, 2011

Soldier death brings 2011 British toll in Afghanistan to 46
London (AFP) Dec 31, 2011 - A British soldier has been killed in an explosion in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence said Saturday, taking the 2011 death toll for British troops there to 46.

The death on Friday means that 350 British troops have now been killed since operations began in 2001. The overall toll now stands at 394.

The British government wants all Britain's troops out of a combat role in Afghanistan in three years' time, by the end of 2014.

"It is with great sadness that the Ministry of Defence must announce the death of a soldier from 1st Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment on 30th December 2011 in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand Province," a statement said.

Britain's 9,500 troops in Afghanistan are based in the central belt of the restive southern province, where they are fighting Taliban insurgents and training local security forces.

2011 was the fourth-worst year for British troop fatalities in Afghanistan, but the toll was less than half that of 2010, when 103 died.

Some 108 lost their lives in 2009, while 51 died in 2008.

Britain is the second-largest contributor to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force after the United States.

Britain intends to pull out all its combat troops by 2015, starting with 500 troops in 2012. Cameron has indicated more could be withdrawn in 2013 to avoid a sharp pull-out in come the cut-off date.

"I don't want to see some massive cliff-edge in 2014 -- I don't think that's practical," he said on a visit to Afghanistan in December.

"I'm absolutely clear that the British public deserve to know there is an endpoint to our involvement in Afghanistan and that endpoint is 2014," he said.

Eleventh Georgian soldier killed in Afghanistan
Tbilisi (AFP) Dec 31, 2011 - A Georgian soldier has been killed in Afghanistan, the defence ministry in Tbilisi said Saturday -- the 11th from the ex-Soviet state to die serving alongside NATO-led forces fighting the Taliban.

Corporal Besik Niniashvili was killed by a mine explosion in the volatile Afghan province of Helmand, the ministry said in a statement.

Georgia is a staunch ally of the United States with ambitions to join NATO and currently has more than 900 troops serving in Afghanistan -- a major contribution from a small country of 4.4 million people.

Georgia's parliament this month voted to send another battalion to Afghanistan, almost doubling its contingent there.

Tbilisi's NATO aspirations have infuriated neighbour Russia, which fought a brief war with Georgia in 2008 over the Moscow-backed separatist region of South Ossetia.

Visiting Tbilisi last month, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Georgia had "progressed significantly" in its membership bid, but said that the country needed to do more to develop democracy.

Foreign troops fighting in Afghanistan continue to pay a high toll, with more than 560 killed in 2011, the second highest number in the 10-year war against the Taliban-led insurgency.

Commanders from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) say violence is declining following the US military surge which saw an extra 33,000 troops on the ground.

But the UN says violence is up, while recent mass casualty strikes by the Taliban on civilians and coalition troops have fuelled analyst predictions that more bloodshed is likely as NATO hands control for security to Afghan forces.

The death toll of coalition service personnel in 2011 was 566 and includes at least 417 from the US and 45 from Britain, according to an AFP tally based on figures from independent website icasualties.org.

The number is down from a wartime high of 711 in 2010 after the start of the surge but up from 521 in 2009.

The toll in 2011 was added to on the final day of the year when ISAF announced a service member had died after a non-battle related incident in the south.

The fatality count has been worsened by several devastating attacks, including the car bombing of an ISAF convoy in Kabul in October which killed 17, and the shooting down of a helicopter in Wardak, south of the capital, in August in which 30 US troops perished.

But it is Afghan civilians who have paid the highest price.

The deadliest attack saw at least 80 people killed in a shrine bombing in Kabul on the Shiite holy day of Ashura in early December.

The surge troops -- ordered in by US President Barack Obama two years ago to turn the tide in the war -- have now begun to pull out, with 10,000 already gone and the rest leaving by next autumn.

Other foreign forces are also scaling down their missions ahead of a 2014 deadline for the withdrawal of all NATO combat forces. And one Western military official said some units have already been told not to carry out offensive operations.

Since the US-led invasion toppled the Taliban from power in 2001, a total of 2,847 foreign troops have died in the conflict.

"We've seen a considerable reduction in enemy attacks (this year). That's a result of successes on the battle field and a reduction of their capability to attack us," said ISAF spokesman Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson.

While fewer ISAF troops on the ground in the coming years may mean fewer coalition deaths, the civilian toll will not necessarily fall.

The UN said the number of civilians killed in violence in Afghanistan rose by 15 percent in the first six months of this year to 1,462. A full-year report is due out in mid-January.

Insurgents are blamed for 80 percent of the deaths, which are mostly caused by homemade bombs or IEDs.

NATO, which says enemy attacks are down eight percent, only includes "executed attacks" and not IED finds or instances where the Taliban intimidate local people.

Haroun Mir, an analyst at Afghanistan's Centre for Research and Policy Studies, said that while the Taliban were no longer engaging ISAF troops head-on, factions within the insurgency were intent on targeting civilians.

"The Taliban are deliberately targeting civilians to spread fear among the people. They want to show that despite the surge they are still active, that they have the capacity to disrupt life, especially in the cities," he said.

The international community is looking for a political solution to the war and moves have been made to establish a Taliban office, possibly in Qatar, to enable peace talks.

But Mir said although some members of the Taliban would be willing to negotiate, others, such as those based over the border in Pakistan, are likely to become increasingly isolated and unleash more violence.

"We expect more terrorist attacks and more political assassinations during the phase of transition. These radical groups will do everything possible, especially after 2014, to weaken the government," he said.

As security is handed over the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), which now number more than 300,000, can also expect to take on more casualties.

Since March 21, the beginning of the Afghan year, 1,400 police, 520 soldiers and 4,275 insurgents have been killed in the conflict, according to Afghan government figures.

However, there is some optimism that the reduction in the foreign presence may in itself lead to a fall in violence.

"The hope is that as foreign troops hand security to Afghan forces fewer local people will become radicalised," said Fabrizio Foschini of the Afghanistan Analysts Network.

"And the insurgents won't kill as many civilians collaterally by using highly destructive tactics to target foreigners," he said.

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French defence minister spends NY in Afghanistan
Nirjab Base, Afghanistan (AFP) Jan 1, 2012 - French defence minister Gerard Longuet spent New Year's eve with troops in Afghanistan at the end of a year in which his nation's forces suffered their heaviest death toll.

Longuet saw in the new year with military personnel based in Surobi, a district of Kabul province to the east of the capital.

After touching down in Kabul, the minister took part in a ceremony for two French Legion soldiers who were shot dead Thursday by an Afghan army soldier who they were training in the eastern province of Kapisa.

US General John Allen, the commander of ISAF forces in Afghanistan, also attended the ceremony before the bodies were put on a plane to be repatriated to France.

Suicide attacks, roadside bombs and insurgent attacks have had a heavy toll on French troops in 2011. A total of 26 were killed, the most in a single year during the 10-year war.

In the morning Longuet met to discuss the security situation with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his Afghan counterpart General Abdul Rahim Wardak.

"We shouldn't downplay the incident. We have to find a way through this," said Colonel Philippe Robin, senior commander at the Nirjab base.

He said French and Afghan forces have a "common cause" and would continue in their operations.

Addressing the soldiers at Nirjab, Longuet praised the sacrifices made and the "efforts which allow the hope that in 2012 the Afghan National Army will be able to take responsibility for security" in Kapisa.

"France's aim is not to be in foreign theatres indefinitely," he said, referring to commitments in Libya and the Ivory Coast.

Thursday's incident took the death toll among French troops since the start of the war in 2001 to 78.

After the withdrawal of 400 troops this year, France now has 3,600 soldiers serving in Afghanistan with another 200 due to leave in March.

There are about 130,000 international troops in Afghanistan fighting alongside Afghan government forces against a Taliban-led insurgency.

NATO is handing security over to Afghan forces ahead of the withdrawal of all its combat troops by the end of 2014 and the French have been involved in training the Afghan army.


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Over 560 ISAF troops die in Afghan war in 2011
Kabul (AFP) Dec 31, 2011
Foreign troops fighting in Afghanistan continue to pay a high toll, with more than 560 killed in 2011, the second highest number in the 10-year war against the Taliban-led insurgency. Commanders from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) say violence is declining following the US military surge which saw an extra 33,000 troops on the ground. But the UN says violence ... read more

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