Sgt. John Oyston and Second Lt. Cole Henderson prepare to hear Defense Secretary Robert Gates speak at a town hall meeting at Fort Drum, New York. As fighting in Afghanistan intensifies, Gates has announced that the Army will be increasing its size by 22,000 soldiers to meet the needs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Photo: AP)
The incident in the country's dangerous eastern region bordering Pakistan pushes the American death toll in July to 30.
Kabul, Afghanistan - A roadside bomb killed four American soldiers in eastern Afghanistan today, adding to the toll in what has already been the conflict's deadliest month for Western forces. The latest deaths push the number of coalition troops killed in July to at least 55 - 30 of them American.
U.S. military officials have forecast a bloody summer in Afghanistan, in part because thousands of newly arrived American troops are pushing into areas previously controlled by the Taliban.
Also see below:
Gates Announces Army Being Increased by 22,000 â€¢
A major U.S.- and British-spearheaded military offensive is under way in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province. But the eastern region bordering Pakistan's volatile tribal areas has also been one of the country's most dangerous areas in recent weeks. In addition to being the scene of Monday's U.S. troop deaths, it is the sector from which a U.S. soldier was captured by insurgents on June 30.
American officials denounced the use of the abducted serviceman for propaganda purposes after the Taliban over the weekend released a video of their captive, in which he was seemingly prompted to call for the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan.
It is relatively rare for four or more soldiers to be killed by a single IED, or improvised explosive device. But insurgents have been using increasingly sophisticated tactics in the manufacture and planting of the roadside bombs, which account for about 70% of combat casualties.
Military authorities on Monday also disclosed the death of a British soldier a day earlier in southern Afghanistan. The sharply rising number of British combat fatalities - 16 so far this month - has triggered intense debate in Britain, the second-largest partner in NATO's International Security Assistance Force. The slain British soldier was on foot patrol in Helmand province's Sangin district, considered an insurgent stronghold.
Intensifying combat in large swaths of the country has put Afghan civilians in peril as well. Afghan officials said Monday that 11 civilians were killed the previous day when their van struck a roadside bomb in a remote area of Farah province, which borders Iran. The dead included a mother and child, provincial officials said. A second explosion hit would-be rescuers.
An additional three civilians were killed when German troops in the northern province of Kunduz on Sunday opened fire on a pickup truck they said was approaching a checkpoint at high speed. Such shootings - known in military terminology as "escalation of force" incidents - have been relatively rare in the country's north.
Afghanistan has also seen a highly unusual run of aviation accidents in recent days. In the latest incident, a British jet fighter crashed just after takeoff Monday at Kandahar Airfield, the alliance's main hub for operations in the south. The crew managed to eject safely. Officials from the NATO-led force said they had ruled out insurgent fire in the crash of the Royal Air Force GR-4 Tornado.
The incident came a day after a U.S. F-15E went down in eastern Afghanistan, killing its two-member crew, and two days after a Russian-made helicopter carrying civilian contractors crashed just after lifting off from Kandahar Airfield. Sixteen people were killed and five injured in that crash, the second in less than a week involving a Russian-made helicopter operated by a company working under contract to Western forces.
Gates Announces Army Being Increased by 22,000
Monday 20 July 2009
Washington - Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced Monday that the size of the Army is being increased temporarily by 22,000 soldiers to help meet the needs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other missions around the world.
This is the second time since 2007 that the military has determined it doesn't have a large enough force. Gates had already increased the size of the Army and Marine Corps shortly after taking the Pentagon job.
Gates noted that while progress in Iraq will lead to a reduction in the number of troops there, more troops are needed in Afghanistan because of the worsening violence in that conflict. He said the persistent pace of operations in the two wars over several years has meant a steady increase in the number of troops who are wounded, stressed or otherwise unable to deploy with their units.
Also causing a shortage is the decision earlier this year to stop the unpopular practice of keeping troops beyond their enlistment dates, a practice known as "stop-loss."
"The cumulative effect of these factors is that the army faces a period where its ability to continue to deploy combat units (with enough troops) is at risk," Gates said.
"This is a temporary challenge that will peak in the coming year and abate over the course of the next three years," Gates told a Pentagon press conference.
The Army currently has a total troop strength of 547,000.