Taliban attack Bagram as Nato death toll rises
US deaths in Afghanistan pass 1,000 landmark; British casualties double in a year
A newly aggressive Taliban offensive in Afghanistan, which yesterday saw the American death toll pass 1,000, continued this morning with a brazen attack on the US base at Bagram, 50 miles north of Kabul. The Taliban claim that four suicide bombers blew themselves up at the gates to the camp, allowing 30 other fighters to get inside to attack American troops with rockets, small arms and grenades.
A US Army spokesman has confirmed that an attack on the base is in progress but denies defences have been breached. He said seven insurgents had been killed.
The Taliban assault follows an attack yesterday on a Nato convoy in Kabul (above) in which five US soldiers were killed, taking America's death toll in Afghanistan to 1,000.
What has shocked observers about the American death rate is the speed with which it is has accelerated. It took nearly seven years to reach the first 500 - and less than two to reach the second 500.
As the New York Times reports, "a resurgent Taliban active in almost every province, a weak central government incapable of protecting its people and a larger number of American troops in harm's way all contributed to the accelerating pace of death".
The British Army is also suffering an accelerating casualty rate, with the number of troops killed or injured doubling year on year. Thirty-six British soldiers died in the first four months of 2010 compared with 16 in the same period last year. As for injuries - many of which are dreadful - 149 soldiers have been hurt this year compared with 73 in the first four months of 2009.
It is true that when President Obama made his decision last year to order another 30,000 more troops into Afghanistan, on the advice of Gen Stanley McChrystal, he warned the American people that casualties would increase before security improved.
But that doesn't make the campaign any more popular back home. And the fact that the troops are dying younger - "straight out of boot camp", as the New York Times put it - doesn't help. Between 2002 and 2008, the average age of US service personnel killed in action in Afghanistan was 28. In 2009 it dropped to 26 and this year it has fallen to 25.
As Robert Fox reported for The First Post earlier this week, the parallels with Vietnam are becoming more conspicuous as the war in Afghanistan heads into its ninth summer. With Vietnam, the American public "became increasingly bewildered about the purpose and likely outcome of the war" and the same is happening now.
This week's Taliban attacks come as American, Nato and Afghan leaders prepare to launch an offensive to break the Taliban hold in Kandahar. This will be the test of strength, said Fox - and a test of the patience of the American and British people.
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