Foreign troops are paying a heavy price for their involvement in Afghanistan.
Last year, a record 294 soldiers lost their lives. This year the figure has already passed 400 – highlighting the need some military chiefs say for a new strategy. The United States mostly supplies the 35,000 troops involved in Operation Enduring Freedom on the Pakistan border. The Nato-led International Security Assistance Force, Isaf, is almost double the size with Britain and Germany the largest European contributing nations. Different nations exchange command of Afghanistan’s regions with more than 40 countries contributing troops. The bulk of Isaf’s forces are in the troubled south and east regions, especially Helmand and Kandahar provinces. Elsewhere Isaf is more engaged in peacekeeping and reconstruction work. In total, there are 100,000 allied forces, along with the expanding Afghan army and police force. Current US intelligence estimates the Taliban has almost tripled its fighters since 2006. But despite vastly outnumbering the insurgents, military chiefs say they need more troops to help train Afghan authorities and lay the ground for a hybrid war strategy; the focus of which would be on protecting major population centres combined with counter-insurgency measures in outlying areas. The biggest question remaining is how many more troops and trainers will Barack Obama and his allies decide to deploy.