Deadliest year in Afghanistan
With 2 more killed, '08 total of 113 is highest
KABUL, Afghanistan - Insurgents killed two US troops in Afghanistan on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks yesterday, making 2008 the deadliest year for American forces since US troops invaded the country in 2001 for sheltering Osama bin Laden.
The deaths brought the number of troops who have died in Afghanistan this year to 113, according to an Associated Press tally, surpassing last year's record toll of 111.
Afghanistan was the launching pad for Al Qaeda's terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. US forces invaded in October 2001 in response and quickly drove the Taliban out of power.
Across Afghanistan, US troops paused in silence yesterday to commemorate the 9/11 attacks. At a US base in Kabul, members of the New York National Guard, many of whom served at the site of the World Trade Center after the towers came down, remembered the attack on their home state.
"For those of us who were there, served at ground zero, 9/11 is deeply personal," said Colonel Brian K. Bale, the commander of the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
Major Stephen Bousquet, 34, of Buffalo provided security at ground zero for three weeks after the attack. He now trains and mentors Afghan police, he said, "so American and coalition forces can leave one day."
Osama bin Laden, leader of the Al Qaeda network, is believed to be in the lawless tribal belt on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. He had been sheltered by Taliban leader Mullah Omar before 9/11.
Taliban fighters folded in easy defeat in fall 2001 in what at first appeared to be a resounding US victory. But the militants, whom US commanders once derided as ragtag amateurs, have transformed into a fighting force mounting massive conventional attacks. Suicide and roadside bombs are bigger and deadlier.
The number of Arab, Chechen, and Uzbek militants flowing into the Afghan-Pakistan region has increased this year, bringing with them command expertise the Taliban lacked.
US death tolls have climbed sharply from the first years of the war. Only five American service members died in 2001. Thirty service members died in both 2002 and 2003; 49 died in 2004; 93 in 2005; and 88 in 2006.
Last year 111 troops died. That mark was surpassed yesterday - with more than three months left in the year - reflecting both the increased number of American troops deployed to Afghanistan as well as the insurgency's increasing potency.