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Weekly news roundup: Another deadliest month in Afghanistan, photos from the war, leaving Iraq

written by Matt Elliott
on August 06, 2010

The past month was again the deadliest for U.S. forces in Afghanistan. In July, 66 American service members lost their lives fighting in Afghanistan, the highest monthly total in the nine-year war. In June, 60 U.S. service members were killed, which was the highest total to date. The troop surge, which expects to push the total number of American soldiers in Afghanistan past 100,000 this month, is one reason the fatalities are rising, say officials. They also point to Taliban fighters rejoining the fight this summer, after the spring poppy harvest.

"Recent months in Afghanistan have ... seen tough fighting and tough casualties. This was expected," Gen. David Petraeus said at his Senate confirmation hearing last month. "My sense is that the tough fighting will continue; indeed, it may get more intense in the next few months."

Gen. Petraeus adjusted the rules of engagement in Afghanistan this week, which may protect American lives while resulting in more civilian deaths. Gen. Stanley McChrystal put in place strict rules regarding the use of air and artillery support as a way to limit civilian deaths as the coalition forces fight the insurgency while also attempting to win hearts and minds in the process.

To get a sense of what July looked like in Afghanistan, check out The Boston Globe's Big Picture feature from last week, which includes 47 images of all aspects and effects of the war. Be warned, some of the images are graphic.

The New York Times has an interview with Dima Gavrysh, a Ukrainian photographer, about his first trip to Afghanistan last summer. He talks about the fear he saw in Afghan faces, and the frustration and the feeling of being lost shared by the soldiers with whom he was embedded.

Part 1 and Part 2 of this story from the GlobalPost provide a glimpse of the worsening conditions in Marjah, a rural area in the southern province of Helmand, a Taliban stronghold. Reconstruction and development efforts have stalled as the violence has escalated there this summer.

"It is like Doomsday," said Haji Abdul Samad, a shopkeeper in Marjah. "The bullets drop like rain from the sky. I have not been able to go to my shop for 10 days. Cattle and sheep are dying. There is no humanity here, no kindness."

The picture in Iraq is a bit brighter this week. On Monday, President Obama said his plan to end U.S. combat operations in Iraq by the end of the month remains on track. The drawdown continues; 50,000 troops will remain to advise and aid Iraqi security forces. Obama also restated his promise to bring all U.S. troops home by the end of the year.

For two perspectives on what's ahead for Iraq after the U.S. pullout, read or watch this PBS Newshour interview by Gwen Ifill with former Clinton and Bush administration officials.

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