WASHINGTON - Grappling with a record death toll in an overshadowed war, President Bush promised yesterday to send more US troops into Afghanistan by year's end. He conceded that June was a "tough month" in the nearly seven-year-old war.
In fact, it was the deadliest month for US troops in Afghanistan since the conflict began.
"One reason why there have been more deaths is because our troops are taking the fight to a tough enemy, an enemy who doesn't like our presence there because they don't like the idea of America denying safe haven" to terrorists, Bush told reporters. "Of course there's going to be resistance."
Bush said it was a tough month, too, for the Taliban. But the ousted Islamist regime in Afghanistan has now rebounded with deadly force.
More US and NATO troops have died in the past two months in Afghanistan than in Iraq, a place with triple the number of US and coalition forces.
Last month, 28 US troops died in Afghanistan. That was the highest monthly total of the entire war, which began in October 2001. For the full US-led coalition in Afghanistan, the death toll was 46, also the highest of the war.
Bush confronted the grim direction of the Afghanistan conflict during a sun-splashed Rose Garden appearance. The president used the event to tout his agenda for an upcoming Group of Eight meeting in Japan with world leaders, then addressed Iran, climate change, and gasoline prices in a short session with reporters.
The Pentagon predicts that the pace of attacks in Afghanistan by a resurgent Taliban is likely to rise this year, despite US-led efforts to capture key leaders.
"We're going to increase troops by 2009," Bush said, without offering details about exactly when or how many.
He said coalition forces have doubled in size over two years, and pledged that the twin strategy of fighting extremists and supporting Afghanistan's civil development "is going to work."