The toll of US soldiers killed in the Afghan war this year is the highest since the conflict began, an AFP count found, as NATO said Wednesday it had killed two insurgents for every soldier lost last month.
Military leaders say the spike in deaths reflects the deployment of additional troops into the Afghan theatre, which leads to a higher number of battlefield engagements with Taliban-led insurgents.
A total of 324 US soldiers have been killed in the Afghan war 2010, compared with 317 for all of 2009, according to AFP figures based on the independent icasualties.org website.
NATO\'s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) reported September\'s first death, another American, in an insurgent attack in the south.
Foreign forces suffered a rise in deaths last month as the Taliban insurgency intensified, with NATO confirming Wednesday that a sixth US soldier was killed on Tuesday in one of the bloodiest days this year.
At 491, the overall death toll for foreign troops for the first eight months of the year, including Wednesday\'s, is rapidly closing in on the 2009 figure, which at 521 was a record since the start of the war in late 2001.
US President Barack Obama on Tuesday warned that the United States faced a "very tough fight" in Afghanistan, with more deaths and "heartbreak" to come.
"We obviously still have a very tough fight in Afghanistan," Obama told troops in Texas as the United States marked the formal end of combat operations in Iraq.
"We have seen casualties go up because we are taking the fight to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. It is going to be a tough slog."
US General David Petraeus, the commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said Tuesday that deployments would reach full strength of 150,000 within days.
In recent months improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, the Taliban\'s weapon of choice, have become the biggest killers of foreign troops as the insurgents adapt their battlefield techniques to counter Western forces\' heavier armour.
IEDs are easy and cheap to produce, often using ammonium nitrate fertiliser produced in Pakistan and trucked across the border into Afghanistan.
The bombs are difficult to detect, often buried by roadsides and remotely detonated to devastating effect.
A UN report in June noted an "alarming," 94 percent increase in IED incidents in the first four months of this year compared to 2009.
As the coalition ended August with 80 troops dead, NATO released figures showing that for each foreign soldier lost during the month two insurgents were killed.
In a statement, NATO\'s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said 160 insurgents were killed in operations in August, including 53 Taliban leaders and 23 members of the hardcore Haqqani network, which has ties to Al-Qaeda.
More than 500 insurgents were detained in that time, ISAF said.
"The leaders were associated with the facilitation of improvised explosives device attacks, suicide attacks, and the facilitation of foreign fighters against coalition and Afghan troops," it said.
The killed and captured figures came from 186 operations in August, it said, adding that 85 percent were "conducted without shots fired".
It is the first time ISAF has released such detailed figures, reflecting an intensified effort to counter Taliban propaganda on battlefield successes.
In all 1,271 American troops have lost their lives, out of 2,059 foreign military deaths, since the conflict began with the US-led invasion of Afghanistan, following the 9-11 attacks on New York and Washington in 2001.
In the latest incident ISAF confirmed a sixth US soldier died on Tuesday, killed in an insurgent attack in the Taliban\'s southern heartland.
This followed the previously announced deaths on Tuesday of another five US soldiers, four of them killed in a IED attack.
On Monday, eight NATO troops -- seven Americans and an Estonian -- were killed in bomb attacks in southern Afghanistan.
Twenty-six Americans have died since Friday.
Website icasualties.org constantly updates its figures as soldiers wounded in battle may die of their injuries after they have been evacuated from Afghanistan, sometimes days or weeks later.
A senior Afghan official was killed Wednesday and five others were injured in a Taliban-style bomb attack in the troubled southern city of Kandahar, authorities said.
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