U.S. military fatalities in the eight-year Afghan war have swelled over the past few years. When taking into account worldwide military operations in Operation Enduring Freedom, U.S. deaths have passed the 1,000 mark, according to the Department of Defense, The Associated Press and iCasualties.org. Due to differences in how and when organizations that track military deaths confirm and report them, their numbers vary slightly.
Correspondent Kwame Holman takes a closer look at the numbers behind the milestone, including how the different service branches have suffered and how the shifting military priorities in Afghanistan have affected the casualty count in recent years:
Michael White, who runs iCasualties — a site that tracks coalition deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq using Defense Department data and other sources like NATO statements and media reports — spoke to us about the service members who died.
“Most of the deaths, by a large percentage, are caused by IEDs … improvised explosive devices,” and most have occurred in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, areas with the most Taliban activity, said White.
As of March 5, more than 930 U.S. service members had died in and around Afghanistan. But when looking at Operation Enduring Freedom as a whole, which includes operations in such far-flung places as Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the Philippines, the fatalities amount to more than 1,000, he said.
And when including soldiers of other nationalities involved in the Afghan war, the number rises to more than 1,670, according to the site.
Since 2005, the death toll has accelerated from the early years of the war, bringing with it more attention, White said. The tally hit a new annual height of 316 in 2009.
In addition to fatalities growing over the past few years, so too have the number of wounded, White noted. “We’ve gone from having a small number of people wounded monthly, in the 10s or 20s, to … over 200 a month now, 300 a month.”